March 2019

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



280 Christians killed in attacks in Nigeria

March 20 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian deaths are spiraling in Nigeria as militant Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists escalate their attacks, according to reports from religious liberty watchdog groups active there.
 
As many as 280 people were killed in Christian communities in several attacks spanning February through mid-March in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, according to varying reports from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Morning Star News and International Christian Concern (ICC). Militants destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced residents.
 
In the latest attack, Fulani militants killed 10 Christians overnight March 16 in Kaduna state, Morning Star News reported March 18. The deaths follow the killing of 40 Christians in at least two attacks in Kaduna Feb. 10-26.
 
Meanwhile, a regional Nigerian court ruled that the national government failed to protect victims when militant Fulani killed 500 people, most of them Christian civilians, in several Middle Belt attacks in Benue State in 2016. The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Feb. 26 sided with Christian plaintiffs and ordered the government to investigate the 2016 killings, saying the government shirked “its obligation to protect the human rights of the Agatu Community and prevent its violation.”
 
The ECOWAS ordered the government to begin protecting the predominantly Christian communities by deploying adequate security personnel. But the ECOWAS stopped short of awarding plaintiffs $13.87 million requested in monetary damages. Plaintiffs included 11 Christian leaders and the Movement Against Fulani Occupation.
 
The latest attacks surround the Feb. 26 re-election of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari over challenger Atiku Abubakar, who has challenged the election results in court.
 
Buhari lost the vote in Middle Belt states that have substantial Christian communities, but won re-election by mustering a larger voter turnout in northern communities that are mostly Muslim, according to results from the Independent National Election Commission.
 

Latest attacks

 
Death tolls since February vary among reporting agencies, including attacks in Kaduna, Benue and Zamfara states.
 
– In the largest tally, CSW reported 280 people died in February and March attacks, including 130 deaths in Kaduna, 120 in Zamfara and 30 in Benue states.
 
“Once again, we extend our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones in the violence in Kaduna, Benue and Zamfara states,” CSW founder and chief executive Mervyn Thomas said today in releasing the tally. “It is clear that the culture of impunity that surrounds these attacks has emboldened perpetrators. We reiterate our call on state and the federal governments to address every source of violence in a swift, decisive and unbiased manner, ensuring that vulnerable communities are provided the protection they so desperately need.”
 
– ICC documented 205 killings in at least 60 attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani militants in February. Of those, Boko Haram killed 126, including 83 civilians, and Fulani militants killed 79, ICC said, but its tally did not include March killings reported by other groups.
 
The Nigerian government has done little to protect Christians, ICC said.
 
“There have been no major attempts by the Nigerian government to hold the Fulani accountable or disarm them,” ICC said March 4. “The re-election of President Buhari ensures that the government will remain dormant as the perpetrators continue to inflict suffering in Nigeria.
 
“The Middle Belt should remain a cause of great concern for all those interested in Nigeria’s growth and stability,” ICC said.
 
– According to Morning Star’s tally, released today, at least 140 Christians have died in militant Fulani attacks in Kaduna since Feb. 10.
 
Open Doors ranked Nigeria 12th in its 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian. Of the 4,136 Christians killed in 2018, Nigeria accounted for 3,731, Open Doors said.
 
Nigeria ranked the third “most terrorized country” in the 2018 Global Terrorism Index for the fourth consecutive year.

3/20/2019 11:06:25 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Undercover child sex probe leads to Louisville church worker's arrest

March 19 2019 by Kentucky Today & Biblical Recorder Staff

A former Louisville church employee was arrested Thursday and accused of sending sexual photos and videos to an investigator in an undercover probe.
 
Nicholas James Lynch, 33, who worked at Highview Baptist Church as a research assistant and curriculum writer, was arrested following a month-long investigation, according to the Kentucky attorney general’s office.

Image captured from WDRB video

 
Through a social media app, Lynch sent a minor sexual images of himself and requested sexual images of the minor. He also said he discussed meeting the minor to perform sex acts and livestreamed video of himself to detectives while he engaged in sexual contact, the attorney general’s office said.
 
Investigators determined some of Lynch’s illegal communications occurred at the church and interviewed him there where he admitted discussing sex and sending images to a minor he met online.
 
In a statement from Aaron Harvie, the senior pastor at Highview, the church said it was “devastated” about what has happened.
 
“As far as we know from the limited information we’ve received, the accusations against Nick do not involve anyone else associated with Highview Baptist Church, our school or any of our ministries.”
 
The church said it would be transparent and share appropriate information with its members.
 
“We are shocked by the nature of the accusations, but we also know that we live in a fallen and broken world and we pray for Nick,” the statement said. “We are cooperating fully as the investigation and legal process unfold.”
 
Lynch is a former doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He was not enrolled in any courses for this academic year, a spokesperson for the seminary told the Biblical Recorder
 
“In any situation where a student is subject to criminal charges, or any serious moral charge, and/or their local church rescinds their affirmation, that student is withdrawn immediately until the matter is resolved,” SBTS said in a statement to the Recorder.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article was first published at KentuckyToday.com and has been edited by Biblical Recorder staff. Used by permission.)

3/19/2019 8:35:08 PM by Kentucky Today & Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



SBC EC to vote on presidential nominee April 2

March 19 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) will hold a special called meeting in Dallas April 2 to vote on a presidential nominee, EC chairman Mike Stone announced March 19.
 
The EC’s presidential search committee “has confirmed a nominee,” Stone said in an email to the full EC. The nominee’s name will be announced March 31.
 
The special called meeting, to be held at the Grand Hyatt at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, “will include a report from the search committee, a question and answer session with the nominee, and a committee vote on the nomination. The meeting, primarily held in executive session will begin at 11 a.m. and is anticipated to conclude by 3 p.m.,” said Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga.
 
According to Article 6 of the EC Bylaws, “the committee shall offer to the board of trustees, in a meeting of the board held in executive session, a nominee for the office of president.”
 
No other nominations may be offered at the meeting, and the nominee must receive “a majority vote of [the EC members] present” to be elected. The vote will be taken by written ballot.
 
The seven-member presidential search committee announced in February it had “identified God’s candidate for such a time as this” but had not officially notified the person of the search team’s intent to nominate him.
 
Stone, an ex officio member of the search committee, said in his March 19 announcement, “The search team and the nominee are grateful for your continued prayers as we collectively seek the wisdom and direction of God.”

3/19/2019 7:13:49 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Timothy+Barnabas in 25th year for pastors & spouses

March 19 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

“I heard pastors share stories about how they were close to hanging it up, and I just knew there had to be some way to inspire them to stay the course.”
 
That desire led Johnny Hunt to create what would become Timothy+Barnabas, two of the apostle Paul’s coworkers, with Timothy representing instruction and Barnabas encouragement. The Timothy+Barnabas Retreat is now in its 25th year of ministering to pastors and their spouses.
 
“God provided the vision to use Timothy+Barnabas as a way to encourage and instruct pastors and their wives as they surrendered to God’s call to serve the local church,” said Hunt, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., who now serves as the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) senior vice president of evangelism and leadership.
 

NAMB photo by Daniel McCullough
The desire to help pastors led Johnny Hunt – senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board – to create what would become Timothy+Barnabas, with Timothy representing instruction and Barnabas encouragement. March 4 marked the start of the Timothy+Barnabas Retreat's 25th year of ministering to pastors and their spouses.

The 2019 calendar of events kicked off with two retreats held in Greensboro, Ga., at Lake Oconee, attended by more than 320 pastors and spouses attended, representing 14 states.
 
“When we organized our first event those years ago, we thought we would have eight or so couples,” recalled Jim Law, executive director of evangelism and leadership at NAMB and former executive pastor at First Baptist Woodstock.
 
“When around 30 couples showed up, we knew we had hit a nerve, and God has been blessing Timothy+Barnabas ever since.”
 
The March events – each spanning three days – included sessions with Hunt, psychologist and speaker Charles Lowery and Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Tennessee and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Kathy Litton, NAMB’s director of planter spouse development, and author and teacher Susie Hawkins, led sessions for the wives. Jake Holman, contemporary worship pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., led worship.
 
Hunt’s messages focused on personal evangelism and leadership. Lowery discussed the importance of overcoming the influences of sin. Gaines reminded attendees of the priority that a personal relationship with God has over ministry.
 
On Twitter, David Scott, youth and collegiate pastor from University Baptist Church in Thibodaux, La., said, “Thankful for such an incredible days being encouraged and growing together with Johnny Hunt.” Scott also reported that he was able to share the gospel at a gas station on his way home from the retreat.
 
Shane Russell, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Deatsville, Ala., came to the retreat with his wife Shannon. The March 2019 event marked their fifth time attending Timothy+Barnabas.
 
“Timothy+Barnabas has been such a blessing to us,” Russell said. He and his wife arrived at Shoal Creek nearly 13 years ago and began a process of revitalization at the church. He now brings his staff to experience the getaway.
 

NAMB photo by Daniel McCullough
Kathy Litton, left, director of planter spouse development at the North American Mission Board, and Susie Hawkins, right, author and teacher, led sessions for wives during the Timothy+Barnabas Retreat in Greensboro, Ga.

“This was a retreat for us, a way to be fed … to receive words related to leadership and what God was calling us to do,” Russell said.
 
Russell’s wife Shannon, reflecting on what Litton and Hawkins shared from a wife’s perspective, said the retreat was “a time that you can be challenged to do some self-reflection that relates particularly to ministry.”
 
“It’s always a great opportunity to facilitate and initiate conversations that we need to have and a chance to open up in a setting that fosters [openness],” Shannon said.
 
NAMB began partnering with Timothy+Barnabas six years ago, which allowed the ministry to expand and offer scholarships to pastors who otherwise could not afford to attend. In 2018, Hunt placed Timothy+Barnabas with the North American Mission Board in the hopes that the event would continue for many years to come.
 
NAMB President Kevin Ezell, in addressing attendees, thanked Hunt for his generosity and for entrusting Timothy+Barnabas to NAMB. Ezell also thanked Hunt’s wife Janet for her years of service to pastors’ wives through the event.
 
Three more Timothy+Barnabas Retreats remain in 2019 – one in Gatlinburg, Tenn., March 19-21; Palm Springs, Calif., Sept. 3-5; and Branson, Mo., Sept. 18-20. For more information, visit timothybarnabas.org.

 

3/19/2019 12:00:50 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments



Baptist leaders praise housing allowance ruling

March 19 2019 by Baptist Press & GuideStone Staff

Southern Baptist entity leaders applauded a federal appeals court decision March 15 upholding the constitutionality of the ministerial housing allowance.
 
A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled unanimously the long-standing clergy allowance does not violate the First Amendment clause that prohibits government establishment of religion. The decision reversed a federal judge’s 2017 opinion that invalidated the allowance as a violation of the establishment clause.
 
A 1954 federal law permits churches to designate part of eligible ministers’ income as a housing allowance, enabling “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has interpreted “ministers of the gospel” to include leaders of other religious faiths.
 
The Seventh Circuit panel ruled the housing allowance is constitutional under two of the U.S. Supreme Court’s church-state precedents. The allowance, the judges said, “falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter.”
 
GuideStone Financial Resources – the Southern Baptist Convention’s health and financial benefits entity – expressed gratitude for the decision.
 
“We are thankful that the Seventh Circuit sided with a host of legal experts that the housing allowance allows churches of all types to best provide for their pastors’ needs without favoring any one over the other,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in a news release.
 
GuideStone expects challenges to the allowance to continue “as groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation seek to undermine churches and ministries in any way they can,” Hawkins said. “We will continue to monitor future cases and stand ready to advocate alongside our Southern Baptist family and alongside a coalition of large and historic pension boards for the benefit of the pastors we are privileged to serve and, indeed, pastors throughout this country.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), described the ruling as “a victory for all Americans who care about the cause of religious liberty and desire to see communities flourish.”
 
“That’s because it’s in no one’s interest for the government to penalize clergy in small congregations faithfully serving their communities,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “The court was right to say providing a tax exemption does not ‘connote sponsorship.’”
 
The clergy allowance “has never been about an establishment of religion but instead applied indiscriminately across religions,” he said. “I’m thankful to see sanity prevail in this ruling, as are millions of men and women around the country.”
 
GuideStone and the ERLC signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Church Alliance last April that asked the Seventh Circuit to reverse the lower court opinion. The brief contended the housing allowance acknowledges the reality that a minister’s residence is often an extension of a church’s ministry and passes the Supreme Court’s establishment clause tests.
 
In its opinion, the Seventh Circuit panel decided the allowance – which was challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) – does not violate the three-part Lemon test. That standard, named after the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman opinion, says a law must have a secular purpose, not primarily promote or restrict religion and “not foster an excessive entanglement with religion” in order to be considered constitutional.
 
The appeals court panel also ruled the provision is constitutional under Town of Greece v. Galloway, a 2013 Supreme Court decision regarding prayers before the opening of a legislative session that suggested Establishment Clause challenges must be viewed by reference to historical practices and understandings.     
 
Since the federal government enunciated three secular purposes for the allowance, “the first prong of Lemon is satisfied,” Judge Michael Brennan said in the panel’s opinion. The “primary effect” of the housing allowance “is not to advance religion on behalf of the government, but to ‘allow churches to advance religion, which is their very purpose,’” he wrote.
 
“Providing a tax exemption does not ‘connote sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the [government] in religious activity,’” Brennan said, quoting a Supreme Court decision.
 
Regarding the “historical significance test,” defenders of the allowance “have provided substantial evidence of a lengthy tradition of tax exemptions for religion, particularly for church-owned properties,” Brennan wrote.
 
In oral arguments in October before the Seventh Circuit panel, Justice Department lawyer Jesse Panuccio argued the allowance passes both establishment clause standards. Becket, a religious freedom organization, also argued on behalf of the allowance.
 
The Seventh Circuit panel “rightly recognized that striking down the parsonage allowance would devastate small, low-income houses of worship in our neediest neighborhoods and would cause needless conflict between church and state,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which represented some Chicago clergy and churches in the case. “The tax code treats ministers the same as hundreds of thousands of nonreligious workers who receive tax-exempt housing for their jobs –that’s not special treatment, it’s equal treatment.”
 
Federal law also permits housing allowances for certain employees, including members of the U.S. military, workers living overseas and employees of educational institutions.
 
FFRF continued to criticize the housing allowance after the court issued its opinion.
 
The housing allowance is “an injustice not just to us, but to taxpayers who have to pay more than their share, because clergy pay less,” said Annie Gaylor, FFRF’s co-president, in a written release. “The housing allowance is so clearly a handout to churches and clergy, and it so clearly shows preferential treatment and discriminating in favor of ministers.”
 
Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin has twice ruled the housing allowance is unconstitutional. The Seventh Circuit overturned Crabb’s 2013 ruling, finding the FFRF – a Wisconsin-based atheist organization – lacked the legal right, known as “standing,” to challenge the allowance. This time, the appeals court agreed with Crabb that FFRF had “standing” because the IRS rejected its leaders’ efforts to claim the ministerial allowance.
 
GuideStone and the ERLC also opposed Crabb’s earlier decision striking down the housing allowance.
 
The lawsuit did not threaten the part of federal law that enables tax-free use of a parsonage or other home owned by a church or another religious body.
 
In December 2017, Crabb issued a stay postponing enforcement of her opinion until after the appeals process is concluded.
 
The Church Alliance is a broad coalition of denominational pension programs that cover ministers who qualify for the housing allowance.
 
The case is Gaylor v. Mnuchin and Peecher.

3/19/2019 11:57:38 AM by Baptist Press & GuideStone Staff | with 0 comments



Vance Pitman: 4 ways to reach post-Christian America

March 19 2019 by Maina Mwaura, Special to the Recorder

On the surface, Hope Church looks like any other mega-church in America, with two campuses, a diverse lineup of talented staff, coveted creativity and a 2,000-plus membership led by a well-known senior pastor. Yet, Hope Church is different.
 

Vance Pitman

What makes the congregation distinctive is its location far outside the “Bible Belt” – Las Vegas, Nev. Ninety-two percent of Las Vegas residents are non-churchgoers, according to Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church.
 
Pitman started the church in 2001. When asked what led him to leave his home state of Alabama in 2001 to launch a new ministry in Las Vegas, he said it was clearly God’s calling.
 
In an interview with the Biblical Recorder, Pitman said there are four strategies that Christians must explore when doing ministry in post-Christian cultures.
 
1) Intimacy with God
 
The primary motivation that drove Pitman to Las Vegas was intimacy with God, he said. “Where I’m from,” Pitman explained, “people don’t go to Las Vegas, and if they do, they don’t tell anybody.”
 
He vividly recalls spending time with God one morning, reading Luke 4. “I can remember telling God, I don’t know where you’re calling me to, but the answer is yes,” he said. Pitman believes everything Christians do should start with intimacy with God.
 
2) Vision
 
After two weeks of feeling convicted about reaching cities, Pitman received a phone call from Johnny Hunt, then-pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. Hunt said the church wanted to launch a new church plant in Las Vegas.
 
At that time in Pitman’s life, he had never been west of the Mississippi River. In fact, he said it wasn’t until he and his family moved to Nevada – literally exiting the airplane – that he had ever stepped foot in Las Vegas.
 
Pitman recalls seeing slot machines in the airport, then going to a hotel and realizing that he and his wife were official residents of Las Vegas. He said in that moment they were overcome with emotion, crying out to God and questioning whether they made a mistake.
 
“I can still remember going to this pizza restaurant … looking at the people come and go, when Las Vegas became to us a city that God had called us to reach,” Pitman said.
 
Life hasn’t been easy over the past 20 years, he added. But Pitman believes God gave him a vision to minister in Las Vegas and beyond. He wants to see 300 new churches across the nation that each multiply 10 times, to reach 1 percent of the American population.
 
3) Service
 
Pitman said he believes God calls Christians to reach cities, not just develop church programs. “Too many church planters are starting worship services,” he said, “which is not church planting.”
 
Church planting begins with the question, “How are we going to serve the city?” he said. “Jesus never said anything in the Bible about planting a church. He said, ‘Go and make disciples.’”
 
Pitman said focusing on the city, beyond mere church development, helps a church planter focus on how to reach that city.
 
4) Diversity
 
Pitman is passionate about ethnic diversity. He believes that reaching post-Christian cities with the gospel requires loving all people.
 
“A multi-ethnic church is not a new way of doing church,” he said. “A multi-ethnic church is a New Testament church.”
 
On a typical Sunday, 55 different languages are spoken at Hope Church.
 
“Every church planter needs to know that its mission is global, not just local,” Pitman said.  “The mission is the Kingdom expanded to the nations.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Maina Mwaura is a freelance journalist who lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife and daughter. They attend Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.)

3/19/2019 11:49:12 AM by Maina Mwaura, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments



Couple prays for God’s glory in secular city

March 19 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Home of a population described by some reports as less religious than Los Angeles, Madison, Wis., has become a hub of secularism in the United States. In the middle of the city lies the University of Wisconsin where 40,000 college students navigate a campus intertwined with the state’s capital.
 

NAMB photo by Daniel McCullough
Rob Warren, an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering 2019 Week of Prayer missionary, prays with students and volunteers ahead of a preview for Doxa Church’s college ministry, The Salt Company, on the University of Wisconsin campus. Warren launched Doxa Church and The Salt Company in the fall of 2018 in Madison, Wis., one of the most secular cities in the United States.

Rob and Lisa Warren recently uprooted their family’s lives and moved to Madison to start a church and reach the community in and around the university. They represent a growing church planting movement designed to send the hope of the gospel to under-reached university and college towns in North America.
 

“We want to be a church that’s both for the city and the campus, to reach college students and to be around families, pointing them to Jesus,” said Rob.
 
Rob and Lisa, 2019 Week of Prayer missionaries for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, are ministering in a context filled with college students, many of whom are experiencing new ideas for the first time. These students live in a season of questioning everything and are often open to discussing and hearing the gospel, which is why Rob and Lisa love spending time with students. “When we think about Madison,” Rob said, “we think about a place that, like so many other places, just needs the hope that only Jesus can bring. Not only that, but a city that is so strategic in reaching more and more people for Jesus beyond Madison.”
 
Together with their launch team, the Warrens are planting Doxa Church. The word “doxa” is a Greek word used in the New Testament that means “glory.”
 
“This is all about the glory, ‘doxa,’ of Jesus,” said Lisa. “I think if we get one thing right, that’s what we have to stay focused on, and we have to stay grounded in.”
 
Before Rob grounded his life in the glory of God, however, he dedicated himself to football.
 
“My senior year in high school, my father committed suicide, and that sent my life into a tailspin,” he recalled. “Feeling a huge void and a massive amount of pain and shame, I gave my entire self to the game of football.”
 
Rob excelled at the sport and went on to play at Bowling Green State University in Ohio when his best friend, Andy, became a Christian. As Andy’s life began to change, he quit drinking, using drugs and “chasing girls.” Rob took notice of the change in lifestyle.
 
“From that moment, Andy started to share the gospel with me, and over the next three years, I began to feel God working in my life as I learned about Jesus,” said Rob.
 
Over those three years, the lessons Rob learned about Jesus were sinking in, and after one particularly rough night of partying, he sensed conviction of sin for the first time.
 
“Waking up after a terrible night, I felt so bad but couldn’t explain it,” Rob remembered. “Not knowing what to do, I decided to go to church for the first time.
 

NAMB photos by Daniel McCullough
Rob Warren, his wife Lisa, daughter Lilly and son Titus moved to Madison, Wis., to plant Doxa Church near the University of Wisconsin. Lisa helps lead worship and disciple women in the church and college ministry. The church seeks to reach both the college campus and the city, which is one of the most secular in the United States.

“That night, I gave my life to Jesus, and God began a fast and radical transformation of my life, desires and passions, which landed me in full-time ministry.”
 
The transformation that took place in Rob’s life is one the Warrens hope to see duplicated in the lives of countless college students.
 
“We’re super-passionate about seeing young people meet Jesus and have that change the entire trajectory of their life and take it into their towns, new states and new countries,” said Lisa. “I can’t think of a more strategic group of people than college students to share Jesus with.”
 
The road to Madison took them through Ames, Iowa, where they trained with Cornerstone Church and became a part of The Salt Network, a group of like-minded Southern Baptist churches with a mission to see churches planted near college campuses across the Midwest.
 
The North American Mission Board helps resource this movement through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO). New church plants minister to both college students and the wider community in those cities that play a strategic role in shaping young adults.
 
“When people give to North American missions,” said Rob, “they’re literally giving to the future of reaching the next generation of North America.”
 
The Warrens have a passion and a plan for sending the hope of the gospel to their community.
 
“I think it’s important for us to love the city of Madison well and to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to go into the places that maybe some people wouldn’t normally [go] and love them and share the gospel with them,” said Lisa.
 
The story of Doxa Church is just one among dozens of collegiate church plants that are flourishing. Gifts to the AAEO help to make that movement possible. To learn more, visit anniearmstrong.com.

3/19/2019 11:41:09 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments



New Zealand mosque massacre condemned, prayer pledged

March 18 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

“Evil” and “horrific” are among the ways Southern Baptist Convention leaders described a shooting rampage at two Islamic mosques in New Zealand that left at least 50 people dead, according to the latest news reports.
 

Screen capture from NBC
“Evil” and “horrific” are among the ways Southern Baptist Convention leaders described a March 15 shooting rampage at two Islamic mosques in New Zealand that left at least 49 people dead.

“Religious liberty means freedom to worship according to one’s conscience without fear,” SBC President J.D. Greear tweeted. “It is one of our most precious freedoms and should be enjoyed by all everywhere. We grieve with our Muslim neighbors, weep with them, and stand unequivocally against this evil act.”
 
The shootings occurred in the city of Christchurch on Friday evening as Muslim worshipers gathered at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Mosque, according to reports. Authorities told an NBC News affiliate station the suspect is Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old male who has been charged with murder. In addition to the dead, at least 48 other victims were hospitalized.
 
The shooter allegedly livestreamed the attacks from a helmet camera and posted an online document stating he had been planning the attack for two years on behalf of white Europeans as a battle against immigrants, according to news reports. A weapon used in the shooting allegedly was covered in white-supremacist graffiti.
 
Two other people have been taken into custody in conjunction with the attack, according to media reports.
 
International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood told Baptist Press, “We weep with the families grieving in the wake of this horrific attack. We join the entire civilized world in condemning this act of hate. We commit to pray for the injured and for these many heartbroken survivors.”
 
New Zealand’s 4.5 million residents are 44 percent Christian and 1 percent Muslim, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. Thirty-nine percent of New Zealanders claim no religion. According to the Joshua Project, an online resource that estimates the religious breakdown of world nations, 19 percent of New Zealanders are evangelical Christians.
 
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the shootings a terrorist attack and said her country was targeted “because we represent diversity, kindness [and] compassion.” President Trump tweeted “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to New Zealand “after the horrible massacre in the Mosques.”
 
The number of victims in Friday’s shootings exceeded New Zealand’s total number of murder victims for 2017: 35, USA Today reported.
 
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore tweeted, “The terrorist attacks in New Zealand are horrifying. We should pray and work for swift justice against these murderers, and for grace and comfort for those grieving the loss of family, friends [and] neighbors.”

3/18/2019 9:42:59 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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