March 2019

8-year-old refugee credits God for chess win

March 22 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A Christian Nigerian family seeking religious asylum in the U.S. credits God for their son’s New York statewide chess victory and their new apartment after two years of homelessness.
 

Photo from gofundme.com
Third-grader Tani Adewumi and his family, seeking religious asylum in the U.S., credit God for Tani’s state chess championship and the family’s new apartment.

Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi won the New York State Primary Chess tournament in his age group and is preparing for the U.S. national championship in May. Tani only learned the game a year ago.
 
“He said with God all things are possible for me and my family,” Tani’s father Kayode Adewumi told News 4 New York.
 
Tani’s story has gone viral and drawn more than $200,000 through a GoFundMe page Tani’s chess coach established. Hearing of the family’s two-year stay in a Manhattan homeless shelter, a donor arranged for the family to move into an apartment.
 
“It’s a wonderful day, because God has made it happen,” Kayode told News 4.
 
The Adewumis are seeking safety in the U.S. from Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group that has killed an estimated 30,000 people, mostly Christians, since 2011 in Nigeria and surrounding states. Boko Haram, along with militant Fulani herdsmen, are widely accused of attempted Christian genocide.
 
“I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” Kayode told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
 
Tani and his family arrived in New York in 2017. “I feel American,” Kristof quoted Tani March 16, a week after the tournament. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster.”
 
Tani has practiced chess the past year on the floor of a homeless shelter and participates in his school’s chess club. He’s won several local awards.
 
Kayode rents a car to drive for Uber and is certified to sell real estate, and Tani’s mother Oluwatoyin Adewumi has passed a home health aide course, according to news reports. Immediately after an interview March 18 on NBC’s Today, the family moved into an apartment.
 
“The U.S. is a dream country,” Kayode told Kristof. “Thank God I live in the greatest city in the world, which is New York, New York.”
 
Tani’s story has been told internationally since his championship, with stories written from Africa, the United Kingdom and elsewhere posted on social media platforms.
 
Among those congratulating Tani is Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
 
“Congratulations to NY State chess champion Tani Adewumi,” Graham tweeted March 20. “Pray for [Tani’s family] as they’ve applied for religious asylum.”

3/22/2019 11:53:23 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Southwestern Seminary returns to historic seal

March 22 2019 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has returned to its historic seminary seal as its primary institutional logo.
 
Featuring the institution’s iconic B.H. Carroll Memorial Building, the logo has signified Southwestern Seminary since at least 1970, and will now once again be used to represent the seminary’s dedication to equipping God-called men and women for Christian service.
 

The announcement came during spring break when, on the 111th anniversary of the seminary’s founding on March 14, 1908, Southwestern Seminary President Adam W. Greenway proclaimed the change via social media. He wrote, “When you see that royal blue/white dome, you know it’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
 
“It’s important to me to help reconnect our seminary with the best of our history and heritage and legacy,” Greenway explained. “The seminary seal communicates our identity, our brand and our legacy.”
 
Since its construction, the Memorial Building – particularly its iconic dome – has been a symbol of Southwestern Seminary and perhaps the most recognizable feature of the Fort Worth campus. Named for Southwestern Seminary founder B.H. Carroll, the building comprises Scarborough Hall (named for President L.R. Scarborough), Truett Auditorium (named for Pastor of FBC Dallas George W. Truett), and Fleming Hall (named for donor William Fleming).
 
When the Memorial Building was first constructed, the world map on the floor of the rotunda lay at the geographical center of the seminary campus. Although the map is no longer its center due to the campus’ expansion in the ensuing decades, the seminary noted, the world continues to lie at the heart of Southwestern Seminary’s passion for evangelism and missions. The building, therefore, continues to symbolize the seminary’s commitment to equipping its students for Kingdom service. 
 
“When you stand underneath that dome, in that hall of heritage, upon that etched map of the world with a star for Fort Worth, Texas, you think about the legacy – generations of students and others who have not only sensed God’s call, but have responded to God’s call and been equipped for global service here on our campus,” Greenway said.
 
The seal also emphasizes the seminary’s location in Fort Worth, Greenway said.
 
“As Dr. [Robert] Naylor said, the sun never sets on Southwestern Seminary; but the light that shines the farthest shines the brightest at home,” Greenway noted. “... It was important to me to reinvigorate our sense of location and presence in the city we have called home since 1910, which is Fort Worth, Texas – the greatest place in the world to do theological education.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/22/2019 11:50:34 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments



100-year-old recalls service on 1963 BF&M committee

March 22 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

At age 100, with some memories fading, Walter Davis still remembers the 1962 phone call he received from then-Southern Baptist Convention President Herschel Hobbs to ask if Davis would serve on a committee to revise the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).
 
“It was an honor to serve on the committee,” Davis told Baptist Press with help from his son Greg.
 

Submitted photo
Walter Davis, who turned 100 this month, is believed to be the lone surviving member of the committee that drafted the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message.

Walter Davis turned 100 this month and is believed to be the only surviving member of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message committee.
 
In 1962, Davis was among 23 Baptist state convention presidents placed on the Committee to Study Baptist Statement of Faith and Message along with Hobbs as chairman, according to the 1962 SBC Annual. The suggestion to assemble a committee of state convention presidents came as a recommendation from the SBC Executive Committee and was affirmed by messengers. Davis was president of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.
 
Immediate past SBC president Steve Gaines – who served on the committee that drafted the BF&M 2000 and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the 1963 BF&M – said, “I am grateful that Dr. Hobbs and other godly men like Walter Davis were used by the Lord to write the BF&M of 1963.”
 
Like Hobbs, Davis affirmed biblical inerrancy, yet he recalled that the committee “made a concerted effort to write the document in such a way as to avoid controversy between the conservative and moderate wings of the convention,” according to an email from Greg Davis.
 
In 1962-63, avoiding SBC controversy was a tall order.
 
The committee was assembled amid a tumultuous milieu in the convention, according to a 2004 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral dissertation on the BF&M by A.J. Smith.
 
In 1961, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Ralph Elliott published The Message of Genesis, a book questioning the historical accuracy of some stories in Genesis. Many Southern Baptists objected to Elliott’s views. Southern Seminary professor Dale Moody also “rocked the SBC” in the early 1960s by seeming to teach believers could lose their salvation. Both professors were viewed as symptomatic of increasing theological progressivism in SBC seminaries, Smith wrote.
 
“As president of the Convention,” Smith wrote, “Hobbs found himself faced with a monumental task. He had to find a way to preserve the organic unity of the Convention” by satisfying “the conservative base that sound doctrine would be taught in the schools and published by the Sunday School Board” while also assuring “members of the academy that they would enjoy intellectual and academic freedom.”
 
The 1963 BF&M represented an effort to accomplish all those tasks, Smith wrote.
 
When Walter Davis was appointed to the committee, he was 41, a World War II veteran, a Southern Seminary graduate, a father of three and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Hammond, Ind. Over the course of his ministry, Davis pastored churches in Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, Ohio and South Carolina. He retired to Ohio in 1988.
 
Greg Davis, now 64, remembers his entire family attending the 1962 SBC annual meeting in San Francisco, where the BF&M committee was appointed and apparently held a preliminary gathering. The committee convened again in Nashville in July 1962, then continued its work largely through subcommittees before releasing a draft to the SBC through BP in February 1963.
 
The convention adopted the BF&M at its 1963 annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo.
 
Among noteworthy phrases employed in the 1963 BF&M, Davis played a role in discussing whether the phrase “truth, without any mixture of error” should be carried over from the 1925 BF&M to describe the Bible, Greg Davis said. The phrase was retained.
 
Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., commended the 1963 committee by recalling the challenging circumstances they faced. Hobbs was “an avowed inerrantist,” yet “he was a strong advocate of ‘unity in diversity.’ He wanted the 1963 BF&M to be inclusive enough for all Southern Baptists,” Gaines said in an email.
 
“Unfortunately, a fairly large group of moderate/liberal Baptist theologians abused the 1963 committee’s efforts to be inclusive. They used language, particularly in the article regarding scripture, to try to disavow the inerrancy of the Bible,” Gaines said. “Thus, 37 years later Dr. Adrian Rogers led a new committee to revise the 1963 BF&M statement. I served with him on that committee. We made sure that Southern Baptists’ belief in the inerrancy of scripture was stated so plainly that no one except inerrantists could affirm it.”
 
More than 50 years after the 1963 BF&M was adopted, Greg Davis is grateful a “prototypical Southern Baptist pastor” like his father had an opportunity to shape a historic Baptist confession of faith.
 
“May God use [my father’s] story to inspire someone, to try to challenge someone and help us all to realize that those who have come before us have paved the way for where we are today,” Greg Davis said.
 
Walter Davis and his wife Bess, 92, live in Kettering, Ohio.

3/22/2019 11:46:22 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



China pastors, lay members still jailed since December

March 22 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The pastor and 10 members of a prominent church in China remain jailed three months after the government invaded their worship and arrested 100 of them because of their Christianity, the church said March 20 on Facebook.
 

Facebook photo
Early Rain Covenant Church, shown in prayer and worship on its Facebook page, is among unregistered churches the Chinese government is persecuting.


Pastor Wang Yi, his wife Jiang Rong and nine other members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu – also translated as Autumn Rain Covenant Church – were still jailed after their arrest in December 2018, the church said, listing names of those arrested. Two members were missing, and those released from jail are being pressured by their landlords to find new housing, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a press release March 21.
 
China is reportedly harassing Christians, Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and others amid increased international pressure to uphold religious freedom in the Communist country where worship of President Xi Jinping is mandated.
 

A new multi-faith action group, the Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China (CARFC), launched March 4 to urge the U.S. to impose sanctions and otherwise pressure China to eliminate human rights abuses.
 
“We are united,” said Bob Fu, a key CARFC organizer and president of ChinaAid. “We will not let the Communist Party win.” Other key CARFC organizers, ChinaAid said, are International Religious Freedom Roundtable chairman Greg Mitchell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), and retired Congressman Frank Wolf.
 
Conversely, a Chinese government leader accused the West of using Christianity to weaken China’s political power. Registered churches in China are required to fly China’s flag, forgo or remove religious symbols including the cross, and sing songs praising the government.
 
“Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail,” World News quoted Xu Xiaohong, head of the Movement of Protestant Churches in China, March 19. “Only by continuously carrying forward and practicing the core values of socialism can our Christianity truly be suited to socialist society,” Xiaohong said during a speech at the People’s Political Consultative Conference.
 
Increased pressure from the U.S. could influence China to decrease the intensity of its abuses, Brynne Lawrence, ChinaAid’s English editor, told World News.
 
“China likes to look good to the outside world,” World quoted Lawrence. “One of the most effective means we have seen is other countries putting pressure on China to stop the abuses there.”
 
Regarding Early Rain Covenant Church, China is holding Yi and his wife in secret detention and have accused them of “inciting to subvert state power,” the church said on Facebook. Other members, jailed at the Chengdu City Detention Center, are variously charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and conducting illegal business operations.
 
Their detention is a “grave violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in the statement released today. “The charge of inciting subversion is completely unfounded: this is a response to Pastor Wang’s peaceful criticism of the authorities’ treatment of independent churches.
 
“We call on the government of China to immediately release all members of Early Rain Church still in detention and all those arbitrarily detained across China, including the one million individuals currently held in Xinjiang,” Thomas said. China is holding many people, predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and Kazakhs, at the Uyghur Autonomous Region in Xinjiang.
 
“We further call on the government to end the harassment of all religious groups in China, ensuring that all Chinese citizens are free to practice their religion or belief,” Thomas said. “The international community must take every opportunity to raise this with China at the Human Rights Council and elsewhere.”

3/22/2019 11:42:43 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Midwest flood response ‘to take a long time’

March 22 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Several hundred Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers are preparing to “put themselves in the offering plate” by responding over the next two months to Midwest floods that have killed four people and displaced thousands from their homes, SBDR national director Sam Porter said.
 

Screen capture from Fox News
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are poised for major mudout operations when floodwaters recede in several Midwest states.

DR units from at least 10-15 Baptist state conventions will be involved in flood relief across Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, Kansas and Missouri, Porter told Baptist Press. DR operations will focus on mudout work for flooded houses, but also include feeding, shower and laundry units.
 
“It truly is almost like a hurricane in the middle part of the country without the wind,” Porter said of the “bomb cyclone” storm that triggered flooding in mid-March. “It’s just devastating and destroying homes by the hundreds.”
 
“It’s going to take a lot of people” to complete the recovery, Porter said. But “Southern Baptists have people from coast to coast” ready to “put themselves in the offering plate and say, ‘God, here I am. Use me.’”
 
In Iowa and Nebraska, mudout teams already have begun cleaning out flooded homes near creeks and tributaries, where water has receded. However, most DR efforts likely will begin in earnest next week after flooding from major waterways begins to recede.
 
In Nebraska alone, at least 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes, Porter said. At least 74 Nebraska counties have issued emergency declarations, according to media reports. Iowa has declared 41 counties as disaster areas.
 
SBDR leaders are attempting to establish five or six operation centers in Iowa and Nebraska, out of which relief work can be based.
 
In Michigan, DR workers with the Baptist State Convention of Michigan have begun responding to about 100 flooded homes with cleanup operations, the convention reported March 20 on a DR conference call.
 
Flooding may worsen in Kansas and Missouri as floodwaters in the Missouri River move south, according to media reports.
 
Porter urged all Southern Baptists who want to help to volunteer through the DR directors of their state conventions.
 
“I hope that ... we can literally call out thousands of Southern Baptists,” Porter said. “We don’t need everybody next week, but we’re going to need as many as we can get the next two months because it’s going to take a long time to help people that have no insurance to restore their homes.”

3/22/2019 11:39:51 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sports gambling: Pastors ready for fallout

March 21 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Americans are expected to wager more than $8 billion on this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But according to a new study released March 20, don’t bet on many pastors joining in.
 
LifeWay Research’s survey – conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 11 – found most pastors believe it is morally wrong to bet on sports, while few agree it should be legalized nationwide.
 
Though if sports gambling does become legal in their state, many pastors are already planning their response.
 
“The large majority of pastors oppose sports betting,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “And pastors are willing to put their ministry where their mouth is by being ready to help those hurt by gambling and to discourage people from participating.”
 

Opposition to sports betting

 
LifeWay Research spoke with 1,000 Protestant pastors about sports gambling and their churches’ potential responses to it.
 

Photo by LifeWay

Around 6 in 10 (59 percent) pastors agree it is morally wrong to bet on sports, while 32 percent disagree.
 
A previous study from LifeWay Research found the American public disagrees. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) disagree that sports gambling is immoral, while 31 percent agrees.
 
“Twice as many Americans than pastors see no moral dilemma with sports betting,” McConnell said. “There is even a gap within the church as less than half of weekly churchgoers say sports gambling is morally wrong.”
 
Pastors in the South (62 percent) and Midwest (60 percent) are more likely to agree than those in the West (49 percent).
 
Fewer younger pastors say sports gambling is immoral. Fifty-two percent of 18- to 44-year-old pastors believe it is morally wrong to bet on sports, while 61 percent of pastors 45 and older agree.
 
Mainline pastors are more accepting of betting on sports. More than a third (35 percent) disagree that betting on sports is morally wrong, compared to 28 percent of evangelical pastors.
 
Denominationally, significant majorities of Baptist (71 percent), Pentecostal (69 percent) and Methodist (63 percent) pastors say it is morally wrong to bet on sports. Fewer Presbyterian/Reformed (46 percent) and Lutheran (38 percent) pastors agree.
 
In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that prevented state-authorized sports gambling outside of Nevada, but few pastors (12 percent) believe sports betting should be legalized nationwide. More than 3 in 4 pastors (77 percent) disagree that gambling on sports should be legal across the U.S.
 
Pastors under 44 are the least likely age group to disagree, but 68 percent still oppose legalizing it nationwide.
 
Significant majorities of evangelical and mainline pastors, as well as in every denomination, disagree that sports gambling should be legal throughout the country.
 
Previously, LifeWay Research found Americans, in general, were more split on nationwide legalized sports betting. Half (49 percent) opposed legalization while 40 percent supported.
 
“More pastors and more Americans oppose legalizing sports betting nationwide than say it is morally wrong,” McConnell noted. “It is clear that many people perceive negative consequences either for the individual or society that go beyond the bet itself.”
 

Gambling plans

 
If betting on sports becomes legal in their state, many pastors say they will work to discourage it and help those who may be harmed by it.
 
Nearly 9 in 10 pastors (88 percent) say if their state legalizes sports gambling, they will offer counseling for those struggling with debt or addiction.
 

Photo by LifeWay

Majorities say they will use private conversations to discourage participation (65 percent) and offer support groups for gambling addiction (60 percent).
 
Fewer say they will advocate for stricter laws on sports betting (42 percent) or use sermons to discourage people from participating (33 percent).
 
One in 20 pastors (5 percent) say they would feel no need for their church to address legal sports gambling at all.
 
“Pastors are not taking a wait-and-see attitude toward something that is now up to each state,” McConnell said. “They are quick to say that if legalized sports betting comes to their state they will be ready to prevent problems and help those who encounter addiction or debt.”
 

Methodology

 
The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 11, 2018. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size.
 
Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys.
 
The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
For more information on the study, visit LifeWayResearch.com or view the complete report.

3/21/2019 11:59:56 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Tellers named for 2019 SBC in Birmingham

March 21 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear has named tellers for the SBC 2019 annual meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham.


Stephanie Orr


“The Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting takes the efforts and selfless contributions of hundreds of volunteers,” Greear said. “Each committee member plays a specific role in the success of the convention. The tellers committee is no different. Their efforts to ensure our elections and votes are accurate and trustworthy are worthy of our honor. I want to thank them for their service and the integrity they will bring to the task at hand.”
 
Stephanie Orr, member of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla., and board member of the Florida Baptist Children's Home will serve as chairperson. Ray Carr, pastor of Baptist Center Church in Clayton, N.C., has been appointed vice chair.
 
“I am excited to work with committee members from all walks of life with one common goal: spreading the gospel to all nations,” Orr said. “I cannot wait to serve with this committee behind the scenes of the Southern Baptist Convention as one body of believers.”

Fifty percent of the tellers are women, and 45 percent are non-Anglo.
 
Also appointed as tellers are:

  • April Beck, layperson, Wallace Memorial Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tenn.

  • Monique Broadus, layperson, New Faith, Little Rock, Ark.

  • Natalie Burden, layperson, First Baptist Church, Ozark, Mo.

  • Marty Childers, missional strategist, Yates Baptist Association, Durham, N.C.

  • Paul Fries; director of missions, Salem Baptist Association, Liberty, Tenn.

  • Shaq Hardy, student pastor, Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tenn.

  • Krissie Inserra, layperson, City Church, Tallahassee, Fla.

  • Suresh Jonnalagadda; pastor, Indian Upstate Fellowship, Greenville, S.C.

  • Brian Jump, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Clever, Mo.

  • Dellena Lakes, layperson, Pilot Knob Baptist Church, Berea, Ky.

  • Greg Lakes, pastor, Pilot Knob Baptist Church, Berea, Ky.

  • Dale Lingenfelter, business director and CFO/CIO, Louisiana Baptist Convention, Alexandria, La.

  • William Maxwell, administrative director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Franklin, Tenn.

  • Beverly Newborn, layperson, Fellowship Community Church, Forrest City, Ark.

  • Lilly Park, layperson, Third Avenue Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.

  • Agnes Santiago, layperson, Covenant Christian Church, Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Myra Sermon, layperson, Grace International Christian Church, Springfield, Va.

  • Kathy Sharp, layperson, Grace Church, Hendersonville, Tenn.

  • Fred Smith, elder, Forest Baptist Church, Forest, Va.

  • Xavier Torrado, pastor, Iglesia Gracia Redentora, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

3/21/2019 11:48:25 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments



‘Pray SBC’ on Facebook connects prayer leaders

March 21 2019 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Prayer leaders across Southern Baptist life have a new opportunity to connect through “Pray SBC.” Launched March 18, Pray SBC is a Facebook group for members to share expertise, ask questions and offer ideas to “foster a culture of Kingdom-focused prayer toward revival and spiritual awakening,” according to the group’s description. The “C” represents a Southern Baptist Community of churches praying in concert with one another.
 

The page will be maintained by SBC PrayerLink, a network of prayer leaders from Southern Baptist Convention entities, state conventions, associations, ethnic fellowships and local churches.
 
“The idea for Pray SBC came about as members of SBC and PrayerLink leadership discussed the amazing platform social media provides for mobilizing prayer,” said Ronda Davenport, prayer ministry coordinator at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and a Pray SBC administrator.
 
“We want to make ideas, resources and personal connections with other prayer leaders available in a Facebook community because it is an easy and effective avenue to reach many who influence prayer,” Davenport told Baptist Press.
 
Eight original members spent some time populating the page before it opened to new members. Some of the topics already shared include the upcoming National Day of Prayer; resources available through “In All Things Pray,” an SBC prayer resource; prayer movements that are springing up around the country; and recommended books about prayer.
 
Church-recognized prayer leaders, both lay leaders and staff, can join by searching for Pray SBC on Facebook. They will need to identify themselves and the church they represent and enter their church’s seven-digit SBC ID number, which is used by the church clerk or pastor to submit an Annual Church Profile.
 
All group members are encouraged to introduce themselves, ask questions, share ideas and dive into discussions, Davenport said.
 
Chris Schofield, director of the prayer office at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, told BP that PrayerLink’s goal with the Pray SBC Facebook group is to move the convention toward a culture of prayer focused on Kingdom activity.
 
“We need the Lord desperately in revival and spiritual awakening, and this group is very committed and devoted to doing whatever it is we can to help fan those flames of God’s activity in calling His people to return to Him in godliness and holiness and to seek Him with all their heart,” said Schofield, who serves in a volunteer capacity as executive director of PrayerLink.
 
Lorna Bius, a North American Mission Board worker and PrayerLink leader who helped brainstorm the idea for Pray SBC, described it as “an online gathering of individuals in the SBC who desire to pray and seek a movement of God across our nation and the world.”
 
“The group focuses on prayer influencers,” Bius said, “whether they are staff or non-staff. Our hope is through interaction and awareness of resources, individual and corporate prayer will be strengthened.”
 
A main impetus for the development of Pray SBC was an article published in SBC LIFE last fall about the War Room prayer ministry at First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. The article mentioned that the church uses a specific plan to lead people in praying through the Word, and the church received numerous requests for a copy of the plan.
 
Phyllis Ingram, a prayer ministry leader at First Baptist Montgomery and a member of the SBC Executive Committee, told Baptist Press that since the topic of sexual abuse gained traction in the SBC early this year she has been “grieved and praying for repentance” among churches and among their members.
 
“But now I see that another sin is prayerlessness among the church,” Ingram said. “... God is calling His people to repentance and prayer so He can bring revival and spiritual awakening. From the SBC LIFE article, the prayer leaders and pastors that have reached out to FBC for a copy of the prayer plan has been amazing.”
 
Now the SBC LIFE article and a PDF of the War Room prayer plan are posted on the Pray SBC Facebook page for broader dissemination.
 
Pray SBC is meant “to provide prayer resources to churches who want to start a prayer ministry, or they have a prayer ministry but want to expand to include more people and more prayer times,” Ingram said.
 
Schofield is hopeful about the eternal implications of the Facebook group.
 
“I’m excited about the possibilities of prayer leaders being encouraged, about seeing the activity of God online – what He’s doing here, what He’s doing there – and how that might encourage them to adopt an approach or a method, or an idea might be shared that will encourage and will result in more and more people seeking the Lord,” Schofield said.
 
Aside from Facebook, more information about prayer ministry in the convention is available at sbcprayerlink.org.

3/21/2019 11:44:32 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay to close all brick-and-mortar stores

March 20 2019 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay Christian Resources is charting a new course in 2019 marking a strategic shift of resources to a dynamic digital strategy. As part of the transition, LifeWay will close its 170 brick-and-mortar stores in 2019.  
 

The organization will continue to offer a broad selection of resources through the LifeWay Customer Service Center (1-800-458-2772). LifeWay Customer Service hours are Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Central). LifeWay will also continue to serve customers through its network of church partners who work directly with churches.

LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” said acting president Brad Waggoner. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.” 
 
In January LifeWay announced it would reduce the number of its retail locations due to declining customer traffic and sales. “While we had hoped to keep some stores open, current market projections show this is no longer a viable option,” Waggoner said. 
 
“The decision to close our local stores is a difficult one,” Waggoner said. “LifeWay has developed close connections with the communities where our stores are located, and we have been honored to serve those communities. We will continue serving local congregations as they meet the spiritual needs of their neighbors.”
 
The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year. 
 
In operation since 1891, LifeWay offers a comprehensive selection of Bibles, books, scripture reference tools, Bible studies, children’s products, Christian music and movies, gifts and church supplies. Additional items including church signs, furnishings and buses, as well as background checks, electronic giving and other services are available through LifeWay’s OneSource program at LifeWay.com/OneSource. LifeWay also hosts a number of camps and events throughout the year for all age groups. 
 
As part of the organization’s strategy, LifeWay has introduced a number of digital resources including online Bible studies, worship planning, live streaming of events and online training opportunities.
 
“LifeWay has been serving the church for 128 years, and we will continue to grow our ministry to churches and individuals into the future,” Waggoner said. “As the market continues to change, primarily through shifts in brick-and-mortar retail, we are taking steps to meet customer demand for digital shopping experiences and to expand our reach globally.” LifeWay distributes resources in 164 nations and licenses resources in more than 60 languages.
 
Like other retailers, over the last decade the organization has seen commerce increasingly move online, while experiencing overall growth in digital sales. 
 
In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores.  
 
“Our world and our customers are increasingly online,” Waggoner said, “Investing in a dynamic digital strategy allows LifeWay to better serve the Church in its mission and only enhances our ability to provide biblical solutions for life.”
 
More information about store closings is available at LifeWay.com/StoreFAQs.

3/20/2019 2:58:35 PM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 1 comments



'Overwhelming' Midwest floods draw SBDR response

March 20 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Midwest floods that have left at least three people dead and ruined hundreds of homes are being met with a multistate Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) response.
 
"This is overwhelming us," said Frank McCrary, disaster relief director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists (KNCSB). "We've already called to our region for backup."
 

Weather.com screen capture
Floods in Nebraska and Iowa have left at least three people dead and two others missing and presumed dead.

Heavy rain and melting snow have caused rivers to reach historic levels in 41 locations across the Midwest, according to Weather.com, with ice chunks from wintry floodwaters piled 10 feet high in some regions. Two people have died from flooding in Nebraska and one in Iowa. Two others are missing and presumed dead in Nebraska.
 
In Sarpy County, Neb., alone, 500 homes have been ruined by floodwaters, according to media reports. The total number of damaged homes across the region is estimated to be much greater.
 
SBDR teams from at least seven Baptist state conventions have volunteered to assist teams from the KNCSB and the Baptist Convention of Iowa, according to reports from McCrary and the North American Mission Board.
 
In Hornick, Iowa, where virtually all of the town's 60-70 houses have been damaged, Iowa pastor Bob Dillman began leading a mudout team March 18. When Dillman spoke to Baptist Press, his team was helping its first local resident clean and remove damaged furniture from a flooded house. At least 15 other Hornick residents signed up for assistance.
 
"We're the hands and feet of Christ," said Dillman, associate pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa. "So we just love on [flood victims]. We prayed this morning before we went out, 'Give us opportunity to share the gospel.'"
 
Hornick residents are "up and down" emotionally, with some planning to rebuild and others resigned to walk away from their devastated residences, Dillman said. After historic floods in 1998, "they thought it would never happen again. Well, it did."
 
McCrary told BP that Kansas-Nebraska teams are on standby for mudout work. "We have to wait until the water goes down until we can do our mudout operations," he said.
 
To date, at least 56 Nebraska counties have issued emergency declarations, and floodwaters continue to rise, McCrary said. Some Nebraska church basements have flooded, but no church that cooperates with the KNCSB has reported major damage to its facilities.
 
Nebraskans who have "lost everything" are "devastated," said McCrary, who worked with flooded residents as a DR chaplain March 17.
 
In Missouri, DR leaders mobilized volunteers "to assist with sandbags in St. Joseph over the weekend," said Eric Barb, DR systems coordinator for the Missouri Baptist Convention. DR teams are poised to respond to flooding in Missouri if necessary.
 
"There is still potential for flooding as areas in the north are still getting water and all of the ice and snow from the winter hasn't completely melted yet," Barb said via email. "All of that could melt and make its way into the Missouri and then Mississippi Rivers. We are keeping our eyes out for any potential issues in the days and weeks to come."
 
National SBDR Director Sam Porter told BP "SBDR is planning with Kansas-Nebraska and Iowa state DR directors to bring in SBDR volunteers to assist when the areas flooded are able to be accessible."
 
In the meantime, locals are doing their best to help one another.
 
"Here in the Midwest," McCrary said, "we take care of each other."

3/20/2019 11:09:26 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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