May 2010

Walgreens won’t sell genetic test kit

May 13 2010 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — Walgreens, the nation’s largest drug store chain, reversed course May 12 and said it would not sell a controversial over-the-counter genetic test kit after the Food and Drug Administration raised doubts about its legality.

The DNA test by Pathway Genomics of San Diego was set to go on sale in many of the nearly 7,500 Walgreens stores nationwide this month and would have allowed consumers to send the company a saliva sample supposedly to test for a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, obesity and various types of cancer.

The kit itself would have cost around $30, while the actual testing by the company would cost between $79 and $249, depending on the test.

Critics called it irresponsible and argued the kit provided incomplete information because, they say, there are limitations to genetic testing. With Walgreens choosing not to sell it, the product only will be available on the Pathway Genomics website. Other companies sell similar kits, but none in chain stores.

“In light of the FDA contacting Pathway Genomics about its genetic test kit and anticipated ongoing discussions between the two parties, we’ve elected not to move forward with offering the Pathway product to our customers until we have further clarity on this matter,” Jim Cohn, a Walgreens spokesman, said, according to The Washington Post.

The FDA had sent Pathway a letter dated May 10 saying the kit “appears to meet the definition of a device” that would require FDA approval.

“If you do not believe that you are required to obtain FDA clearance or approval for the Genetic Health Report, please provide us with the basis for that determination,” the FDA’s James L. Woods wrote.

The company — which says the kit does not need FDA approval — also had claimed the test could reveal a couple’s prospects for producing children with genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes and Tay-Sachs disease.

Critics said the kit could have led to couples unnecessarily choosing not to having children or even to more abortions. For instance, a couple might have a very remote chance of passing on a disease that perhaps should not be of significant concern.

Without a doctor’s counsel, critics said, the couple might now know that.

Prior to Walgreens’ announcement, C. Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., called the test “just irresponsible.”

“First, this particular test may be illegal, since it does not have (Food and Drug Administration) approval,” said Mitchell, a consultant to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“Second, the role of genetics and lifestyle is not sufficiently understood to help patients make reliable decisions. Third, the danger of misinformation means that some people will not see their physicians because they think they already know their genetic risks. Finally, who will protect the very sensitive genetic data that may be discovered through these tests?”

Hank Greely, the director of Stanford University’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, called the test “reckless.” “Information is powerful, but misunderstood information can be powerfully bad,” Greely told The Washington Post.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)  
5/13/2010 3:51:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Senior choir celebrates 100 concerts

May 12 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Milestones. Senior adults know many milestones mark life as you get older.

But a milestone April 18 will hold a special place for some in Alexander Baptist Association as The Singing Seniors sang its 100th concert at Antioch Baptist Church in Taylorsville.

“It’s a family affair of excitement,” said Kenneth Lambert, director of missions for Alexander Baptist Association.

The associational group started 11 years ago and averages one concert a month.

The 47-member choir is led by Robert and Shelia Austin, members of Antioch where Shelia has been the music director for more than 40 years.

Shelia covers most of the directing duties and Robert sings in the choir and helps with public relations.

“I do a little of the talkin’ and I try to help a little with the plannin’,” he said.

At first the group sang from a wide repertoire but over the years “the Lord moved us into a totally religious venue,” Robert said.

The Austins both worked in the education system and had retired. They anticipated their choir venture would last six to nine months, but it grew rapidly and within two months they had 40 members.

“They were so reliable and dependable,” Robert said.

The choir meets on second and fourth Tuesdays at a local senior center and uses the winter months to learn a new musical. They perform at churches as well as nursing homes or other venues. 

“About once a month is about all our folks want to be away from church,” Robert said.

The Austins try to limit their performances to Sunday nights within a short driving distance.

One of the hardest things is losing members, Robert said. With poor health and age comes the inevitability of physical death.

“At the same time you get to see a lot of beautiful people,” Robert said. “I don’t want it to end. I still get excited.”

Robert credits Shelia with helping other choirs around the county.  Because of her direction the church choirs get better members.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Shelia Austin, right, leads the warm-up for The Singing Seniors, a choir in the Alexander Baptist Association. The group performed its 100th concert April 18 at Antioch Baptist Church in Taylorsville.

Plus, the music they purchase can be used by other area choirs.

“I’m excited that we’ve endured,” Shelia said. “I’m amazed at the progress. It’s been a blessing to me personally to be involved.”

Shelia said choir members range in age from early 50s to 80s. She’s thankful the associational leaders have been supportive. “It really became a pretty good investment,” Robert said. “I think it’s been good for harmony within the association.”

Vivia Cline, a choir charter member, said the choir has been a good experience. “Sheila works with us,” Cline said.

“It doesn’t matter if we make mistakes. She strives for better quality but most of all to praise the Lord.”

Cline said Austin’s patience has helped her learn a lot.

“We look forward to coming to practice,” said Cline, who sings with the Austins in a trio and in the choir at Antioch.

“I thoroughly enjoy being with them,” Lambert said. “It’s a great fellowship. It’s not that we’re professional (but) we enjoy what we’re doing.”

Rodney Boutwell, who recently retired as minister of music at East Taylorsville Baptist Church, worked with Austin on a Christmas musical about four years ago.

Six area churches had done the same program so those churches decided to do a large concert in January for the community.

Boutwell said the group “reminds me what it’s like to be a choir member.”

“It’s good to keep the voice in training,” Boutwell said. “Retirement is a joy but you don’t quit.”

Don Frye, who has been a member nine years, said the group means a lot to him and his wife, Brenda. They are members of Mount Herman Baptist Church in Taylorsville.

“Our group has become so close knit,” Don Frye said. “It’s like we have a family reunion every second and fourth Tuesday. It could be only for one reason that they spend so much time with us. It’s a labor of love.”

“That’s what (Robert and Shelia) exhibit to us,” Frye said. “They’ve truly been a blessing.”

Related videos
Interview with Robert Austin
Interview with Shelia Austin
The Singing Seniors perform Jesus, Hold My Hand
Choir performs God’s Gonna Send a Revival

5/12/2010 4:29:00 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Liberty to probe seminary president’s background

May 12 2010 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Liberty University, the Baptist school founded by the late Jerry Falwell, will investigate claims that its seminary president lied about his Muslim background to make his conversion to Christianity seem more dramatic.

Ergun Caner was named dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005, when he became the first former Muslim to lead an evangelical seminary, according to Christianity Today.

Bloggers and online activists say Caner, 43, has misrepresented key parts of his biography, including where he was raised.

Liberty photo

Ergun Caner

Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said May 10 that the school “does not initiate personnel evaluations based upon accusations from Internet blogs.” But, he said, “in light of the fact that several newspapers have raised questions, we felt it was necessary to initiate a formal inquiry.” An investigatory committee will issue conclusions by the end of June, according to a statement from Liberty.

In a statement, Caner said: “I am thrilled that Liberty University is forming this committee, and I look forward to this entire process coming to a close.”

With nearly 4,000 students, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, in Lynchburg, Va., is one of several flagship schools for conservative Baptists. Enrollment has tripled during Caner’s tenure, according to Christianity Today.

But critics say Caner has misrepresented several aspects of his past, including claims he was raised in Turkey, rather than Ohio, in a devoutly Muslim home, rather than a nominally religious one.

They also dispute Caner’s claims he was involved in Islamic jihad and has debated dozens of Muslims about religion. Caner’s current biography on Liberty’s web site says he was raised a “devout Sunni Muslim” and converted in high school, but doesn’t say where.

In February, Caner released a statement saying he had “never intentionally misled anyone,” but said he may have “misspoke” during his more than 20 years in the pulpit. He also admitted “referencing a Muslim scholar that I have never met.”

“Sin is sin,” Caner said, “and if I am dumb enough to say something like that, I should be man enough to deal with it and never make such a grievous error again.”  
5/12/2010 4:20:00 PM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 4 comments

Editor laments ‘epidemic of moral failure’

May 12 2010 by Steve Rabey, Religion News Service

After Ted Haggard confessed to a gay sex and drug scandal, he lost his Colorado Spring pulpit, his job as head of the National Association of Evangelicals and underwent a lengthy period of counseling and discipline.

For the most part, he hasn’t been seen much since.

Other fallen charismatic/Pentecostal superstars, however, have rapidly reemerged into the spotlight with a new wife, a new church, new TV ministry or a new message from God that seems to dismiss the gravity of their sins.

Lee Grady has seen it all, and he’s had enough.

Grady, a longtime editor of the widely read Charisma magazine, says the miraculous and transforming power of the Holy Spirit he and other charismatic/Pentecostal have experienced is under assault by the “epidemic of moral failure among our leaders.”

“We can have the gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation without this circus sideshow going on,” Grady said in an interview. “I’m waving my hands in the air because this is a huge problem, and we are going to experience even more serious problems in our churches if we don’t know how to apply godly discipline to our wayward leaders.”

It’s a message he’s preaching in his new book, The Holy Spirit is Not for Sale, and one that’s roiling the waters in one of the fastest-growing segments of evangelical Christianity. Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians — who embrace speaking in tongues, healing and other signs and wonders — have been raising eyebrows ever since the Holy Spirit first descended on Pentecost. At the time, skeptical observers figured they were drunk.

Things haven’t changed much since; Aimee Semple McPherson, a pioneer of the Pentecostal movement that grew out of Los Angeles in the early 20th century, was known for her fervor, her pioneering use of radio, and her mysterious 1926 disappearance. The 1980s were rocked by the sexual and financial shenanigans of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and others.

Grady was a member of a Southern Baptist church when, in 1976, he was filled with the Holy Spirit — “when I became a really radical Christian,” he says now. From 1992 until earlier this year, he was editor at Charisma, and he still writes a column for the magazine called “Fire in My Bones.”

Grady says the movement remains as controversial on the dawn of its second century as it was in its first. Yet the movement’s embrace of technology — especially television — carries added risks.

His book explores the fall of leaders like Bishop Earl Paulk of Atlanta’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, who confessed to decades of sexual misconduct before his death last year; divorced evangelists Randy and Paula White, whose lavish lifestyle at Tampa’s Without Walls International Church piqued the interest of congressional investigators; abuse charges leveled against Bishop Thomas Wesley Weeks III and his ex-wife Juanita Bynum, and the affair that toppled evangelist Todd Bentley’s Lakeland Revival in Florida.

As if to prove his point, soon after the book was published, the wife of famed faith healer Benny Hinn filed for divorce. Hinn defended his sexual purity and said the divorce filing caught him off guard.

Grady said there’s nothing unusual about leaders falling — they’re sinners just like anyone else, and charismatic/Pentecostal leaders are no guiltier than others. It’s just that their failures are more publicized.

“Our movement has a lot of television personalities,” he said.

What does concern him, however, is fallen leaders who try to emerge from scandal without publicly acknowledging their sin, repenting, submitting to discipline or undergoing counseling. In other words, it’s not the fall, but the response, that matters.

“Instead of giving into our celebrity culture and allowing fallen leaders to reappear in a new pulpit the next week, we need to preserve a sense of purity with standards of righteousness and systems of accountability,” he said.

Historian Vinson Synan, who has spent decades researching the charismatic and Pentecostal movements, shares many of Grady’s concerns.

“Lee’s book is accurate and fair,” said Synan, dean emeritus at Regent University, the Virginia school founded by charismatic broadcaster Pat Robertson. “And I share many of the same concerns Lee has about the lack of discipline and order in our movements.”

Grady said he will continue his vigilant crusade to do whatever he can to keep modern-day Elmer Gantry’s from “hijacking our whole movement.”

“I’m unapologetically part of this movement. That’s who I am and there’s no changing that,” he said. “But just as the Apostle Paul was outspoken about false prophets, bad doctrine and bad methodology, I’m going to continue offering words of correction and brotherly rebuke.”
5/12/2010 4:09:00 PM by Steve Rabey, Religion News Service | with 2 comments

As tornado loomed, God slammed door shut

May 12 2010 by Bob Nigh, Baptist Messenger

NORMAN, Okla. (BP) — Most of the time, believers obedient to the will of God pray that He will open a door for them. About 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, John Strappazon believes God slammed one shut for him — and he couldn’t be more grateful.

Strappazon, Baptist Collegiate Ministry director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, was leading the spring meeting of state BCM directors at the Sullivant Memorial Retreat Center alongside Lake Thunderbird when David Hogg, BCM director from Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, approached him and said, “We need to get into the storm shelter ... right now!”

Jamey Gilliland via Facebook

A blury cell phone photo captures some of the destruction at Sullivant Memorial Retreat Center in Oklahoma.

It was only the first day of a planned May 10-12 semiannual meeting, but a storm soon changed all of that.

“David is a storm chaser and weather guy, and he had been watching the weather all day,” Strappazon said. “He came up late in the day and said things are getting bad. A few minutes later, he said we need to get into the storm shelter now. So we picked up and started walking toward the shelter. We grabbed water and food. We weren’t running or anything, but we had 56 people to move.”

Things quickly went from bad to worse.

“We were getting close to the shelter and John Kelsey (BCM director at the University of Oklahoma) shouted, ‘There’s debris in the air. We need to get in there now!’ “We got in there, and two of the guys tried to shut the metal door and they couldn’t get it shut,” Strappazon said.

“You could hear it (the tornado) coming. They pulled and pulled and couldn’t get it shut. The door was jerked out of their hands three times before it suddenly just shut itself.”

The room had one small window in it, through which the group watched the twister move across the sky.

“We watched the tornado go over Lake Thunderbird and turn white as it picked up water from the lake,” he marveled.

Afterward, they emerged from the shelter to a scene of unbelievable destruction.

“We came out, and the place was just destroyed,” Strappazon said. “Beautiful trees just sheared off. Half a dozen of our cars were damaged; two or three were totaled. Trees were lying across them, and windows were blown out. You could see that part of the roof of the retreat center was blown away.”

Another building closer to the lake was heavily damaged as well. The group was in the shelter no longer than five minutes, Strappazon said.

“We got in there seconds before it hit,” he said. “If not, we could have had some serious injuries or worse. We were real glad David Hogg was there. He saved our lives.

“When it was over, we got out and assessed the damage. Then I got them back into the main room, and I just said the thing we need to do now is to end this thing and everybody go home.

“After it happened, we walked out on the road, and there was a car that had been flipped three times. A lady from the car had been thrown out of it and Bobby Lipscomb, BCM director at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, who is an EMT, tended to her until EMS finally got there, which was a long time.”

Strappazon said he believes God shut the door to the shelter in a miraculous way.

“I have no doubt of that, because we just could not get that thing shut,” he said. “It was a powerful force,” he said of the tornado. “When that thing went over, my ears popped like they have never have before — three or four times.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nigh is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)
5/12/2010 11:53:00 AM by Bob Nigh, Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments

World Changers celebrates 20 years

May 11 2010 by Mickey Noah, NAMB Communications

SPRINGBORO, Ohio (BP) — Two years after sliding off a hot roof in Knoxville, Tenn. — severely breaking his left ankle — World Changers adult volunteer Ted Smith is at it again, leading Ohio high school and college students on an upcoming World Changers project in Cherokee. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Although it happened back in 2008 and my ankle’s still only 80 percent healed, I’ll never let it deter me from getting back on a roof and being at World Changers,” said the 49-year-old Smith, a regional sales manager for a manufacturer.

World Changers is an intense, hands-on missions experience for students sponsored and managed by the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

NAMB photo by Susan Whitley

Eighth-grader Cece George of Alpharetta, Ga., paints a window ledge in Charleston, S.C. She was one of 309 World Changers who took part in a Charleston outreach last summer.

Smith traveled to Cherokee in late April to meet with local project and construction coordinators in preparation for July 12-17 when he and nine other adult volunteers will bring 18-20 student volunteers from Springboro Baptist Church, to Cherokee, a west North Carolina mountain town some 400 miles away. The Springboro students will paint, repair roofs and build disability ramps for the less fortunate — at no cost to the homeowners.

Smith, in his ninth consecutive year as a World Changers leader, has his reasons for devoting a week each summer to the outreach.

“A lot of our kids are relatively affluent by world standards,” Smith says. “We want the kids to understand that it is God’s will for them to be on the trip, and that service to other people and giving back is a good thing. And although they will bring a lot of blessings to needy people, in the process a lot of the kids will wind up getting more blessed than the people they serve.”

Smith recommends World Changers for other adults who want to share God’s love in a practical way.

“You’re stepping out of your comfort zone, realizing that life is about more than yourself and showing people that God really does care for them,” Smith said.  

Anniversary year
World Changers will mark a number of key milestones this summer, not the least of which is its 20th anniversary. World Changers launched its first fledgling community project in Briceville, Tenn., near Knoxville, back in 1990.

Between June 7 and July 31, the 2010 edition of World Changers also will celebrate its 300,000th student participant, its 10,000th church youth group, the 100th summer project in Alabama and Georgia, the 400th house to be renovated in Casper, Wyo., and some $2 million raised through small contributions by the thousands of students who have participated in World Changers over the last 20 years.

That $2 million has gone solely to fund even more NAMB ministries across North America, said Jonathan Wilson, NAMB’s strategy development coordinator for World Changers and its companion ministry, PowerPlant.

“We want this summer to be one big celebration — for the 20th anniversary as well as to celebrate the thousands of Southern Baptist churches that have partnered with us over the years by sending their students to join us,” Wilson said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

This summer, World Changers will mobilize 21,000 student and adult volunteers to work in 85 cities on 97 projects across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Students from middle school to college-age will pay $249 each to serve on a team that will repair and renovate inner-city homes. Despite sweltering summer heat, students will paint houses, repair or replace roofs, do minor carpentry and yard work.

The $249 fee covers a week’s food, lodging, local transportation and materials. Participants provide their own transportation to and from the project.

“Our Baptist churches have responded in a tremendous way to the changes,” Wilson added. “They understand we’re trying to be good stewards of our resources. Our team at NAMB works hard at providing the best missions experience we can at the best value.”

The World Changers web site — — is the best source for information on the ministry and this summer’s 97 projects, Wilson said.  

Families on Mission
NAMB also offers the summer group opportunity “Families on Mission,” now in its fifth year. FOM is a five-day mission opportunity for families — mom and dad, kids and even grandparents. It provides families with a hands-on experience of mission projects including prayerwalking, light construction, painting, yard work, Vacation Bible School, sports camps, block parties, acts of kindness and other evangelistic initiatives.

Some 800 family members are expected to participate in one of seven FOM mission trips, including Bryson City June 27-July 1.

For more information on Families on Mission, access or call (800) 462-8657, ext. 6456.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offers a similar family on mission opportunity through N.C. Baptist Men and Embrace.

This year’s event is June 10-13 in Minneapolis, N.C., operating out of the Candlestick Retreat Center. Call Mike Sowers at (919) 459-5626 for more information.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.) 
5/11/2010 6:45:00 AM by Mickey Noah, NAMB Communications | with 0 comments

Rankin leads final appt. services as IMB leader

May 11 2010 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Tommy Reed* was soaked to the bone. The 27-year-old missionary was caught in a torrential downpour as he rode his motorcycle to a Bible study in a remote Philippine village.

He found shelter under a thatched-roof shed and stumbled upon the woman who would one day become his church-planting partner — and his bride.

Reed and his wife were among 46 Southern Baptist missionaries appointed by trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB) in two services, May 5 at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Broadview, Ill., and May 6 at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.

The appointment services were the last for IMB President Jerry Rankin before his retirement July 31.

Karen Reed*, Tommy’s wife, remembers that rainy night, now more than 20 years ago. The shed Reed stumbled into was owned by her family. They’d never befriended a foreigner, much less entertained an American in their home.

But the Filipino family invited him inside anyway, and since he couldn’t go to his Bible study, Karen’s father asked him to share the gospel with them instead.

Reed, a Tennessean who was working with another missions organization at the time, spent the next 16 months teaching the family about Jesus, eventually leading Karen, her mother, brother and sister to Christ.

In 2006, Reed and Karen were married and are now heading to Southeast Asia to plant churches together. Though the Reeds’ romantically inspired tale is unusual, it shares a common thread with the stories of all new appointees in the sense that every missionary’s call is unique.  

God’s voice
Shawn Smith* remembers hearing God audibly confirm his calling to missions at age 18 while attending a youth camp. 

“My Bible study leaders encouraged us to focus on prayer as a two-way conversation with God. One night, as we were singing, I was praying to God about my future,” Smith says. “I told Him that I wanted to go to the mission field, but that I would not unless He led me there.

“I asked God if that was His will for me. Then I waited in silence. After some time passed, I heard an audible ‘Yes.’ Startled, I jumped up and looked around. Everyone was still singing. I realized that God had spoken.”

Smith and his wife Elise*, along with their three children, are now bound for Central Asia.  

Returning to homeland

As a preschooler in Taiwan, Lee Chen* first heard the gospel from American missionaries who visited his kindergarten.

“They gave us candy, crackers, milk and pencils. They also brought the love of Jesus,” Chen says. Those seeds finally began to grow when Chen turned 16 and was invited to church by one of his classmates.

Thirty years later, Chen and his wife, Lucy*, working with another missions organization, became one of the first Chinese missionaries to South Africa.

Now the Chens are returning to their homeland to spread the gospel in East Asia.  

Laughed at
Amy Sweet* remembers being laughed at when she told a room of accounting professionals interviewing her for a college scholarship that she wanted to use her “accounting skills to positively impact others,” possibly by working for a nonprofit organization.

“This wasn’t the first time I received this reaction, but it was what I desperately wanted to do,” the 26-year-old Texas accountant says. “I began to pray, and God opened a door for me to impact lostness.”

Sweet is now moving to South America to plant churches and serve with the IMB’s finance department.  

First believer
Church wasn’t an option for Michael Kim*, whose parents strictly forbade him from attending the lone Presbyterian congregation in the South Korean town where he grew up.

As the eldest son, he held the role of family priest, responsible for leading ancestor worship rituals. But he was drawn to Jesus nonetheless and became a believer at age 16, the first in 38 generations of his family.

His new faith enraged his parents, who beat him, threatened to disown him and threw his Bibles into the fire.

Kim eventually smuggled a Bible into his room and read secretly in bed, hiding under the sheets. By the time he finished college, he’d read through the Bible seven times.

“In order for me to hear the gospel, there was a long flow of blood, sweat and tears of Western missionaries to Korea,” Kim says. “As a debtor of the gospel, I am ... heading to Southeast Asia to share the Good News of Jesus.”  

BP photo

IMB President Jerry Rankin, speaking during a missionary appointment service at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., May 6, challenges new missionaries to rely on the Holy Spirit.

Rankin’s appointment milestone
The appointment services marked a milestone for Rankin, bringing the number to 101 he’s been a part of during his 17 years as IMB president.

In that time Rankin has seen more than 10,000 men and women sent out as Southern Baptist career and short-term missionaries.

“I want to thank you, Southern Baptists, because of your faithfulness in praying, for your heart for a lost world, for your faithful giving to the Cooperative Program (that) has enabled them to go in obedience to God’s call,” Rankin said.

He challenged the new missionaries to stay focused on their vision and passion for sharing the gospel, something he found essential during his 40-year service with the IMB.

“It’s so easy (to get distracted) living in a foreign country where you get caught up in just surviving, taking care of your family and all of the bureaucracy and red tape and hassle of congested crowds,” Rankin said.

Of the Apostle Paul, Rankin noted, “Even though he was threatened, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, eventually martyred ... (he) was undeterred because he had a passion for a lost world to know Jesus Christ as Savior. You’re here tonight because you had a very distinct sense of God’s call to the mission field.

“As (Paul) expressed in that final message of farewell to the Ephesian elders, ‘I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry I’ve received from the Lord Jesus Christ.’ That was (pioneer missionary to China) Lottie Moon’s life verse. My life is of no account; my only purpose, my only passion, is to faithfully fulfill the calling of God to share Christ with the lost world.”

*Names changed.  

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.)
5/11/2010 4:45:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Site launched to link ‘missional’ Baptists

May 11 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — A web site launched May 10 aims to become an online platform for churches, mission organizations, strategists and international partners to collaborate to share the gospel in the 21st century.

“This was born out of a desire for churches to reclaim their place in missions,” Tom Ogburn, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and member of a facilitating team for Missions Together, an idea born at a meeting of mission-minded Baptist pastors last fall.

Ogburn was among several pastors and other leaders who have been seeking mission partners and connections that go beyond denominational lines and structures. They wanted to cooperate with partners who had a similar vision, to help create opportunities they could not create on their own and to share resources and ideas. But there wasn’t a good way to connect people all over the world apart from identity-driven organizations like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Southern Baptist Convention.

Together with Dennis Wiles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, Ogburn invited about 50 pastors to Oklahoma City in October 2009 to envision what a new collaboration might look like. Consensus from both the meeting and two follow-up conference calls was that what was not needed is the birth of a new denomination or mission organization requiring administrative leadership, offices and staffing. This time the choice was to create an open-source web site to share documents, contacts, relationships and opportunities for churches already involved in missions.

“Missions Together seeks, in God’s power, to build a covenantal collective of mission-passionate churches, missions partners, strategists and implementers that assist churches and facilitates accomplishing the Great Commission without a sense of competition and without compromising the integrity of our ecclesiology,” says a statement on the site is a public site that serves as an entry point for those desiring to add their voice to the collaboration. The actual resources are being collected on a password-protected site,, which costs $25 a month to join.

Limiting access to subscribers, Ogburn said, will allow users to post information like e-mail addresses they might be reluctant to share in an open environment where people can lurk or comment without using their real names.

The facilitation team has seeded the site with some initial information including educational resources, training opportunities, links to mission organizations, and volunteer opportunities both overseas and in the United States. The concept is for those resources to multiply exponentially as subscribers use the site and begin to upload documents, post links to websites and exchange ideas on discussion boards.

The platform is built with Microsoft Sharepoint, a content-management system with search capabilities designed for businesses to work in a Web-based collaborative environment.

“It has been encouraging to see congregations connecting with one another and sharing missional resource and relationship information with each other even before we establish the website,” Ogburn said in an e-mail announcing the launch sent to people who attended the original Oklahoma City meeting. “I can hardly wait to see what God will do in us and through us as we discover new ways to empower each other and partner with one another for the sake of the Kingdom.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
5/11/2010 4:15:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Nashville not only area with record flooding

May 7 2010 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — President Obama declared 11 counties in Tennessee major disaster areas May 6, bringing the total number of statewide counties receiving the designation to 21 and making it clear that the record flood damage stretches well beyond the Nashville area.

The counties span from West to Middle Tennessee and the list likely will grow in the coming days. The designation makes homeowners — many of whom had no flood insurance — eligible for federal aid.

The Tennessee death toll from the May 1-2 flood rose to 21 Thursday when a Shelby County death was determined to be flood-related. More than 13 inches of rain fell during the two-day period in the Nashville area, flooding streams and rivers and damaging thousands of homes. Some have called it a “once every 500 year” flood.

(Donations for disaster relief can be made on the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s web site.)

The flood was so immense that Thursday — four days after the rain stopped — dozens of roads throughout West and Middle Tennessee remained closed. Yet even when the water does recede, some of the roads will remain impassable because of major damage to the pavement. Four counties remained under flood warnings Thursday.

The flooding and road closures in Montgomery County have prevented the Cumberland Baptist Association, which is based in Clarksville about an hour northwest of Nashville, from getting a full assessment of the damage to its area. Officials with the association estimate there are hundreds of houses in Montgomery County alone with flood damage. The county is one of the 21 that have been named a disaster area.

The Cumberland River that did so much damage to Nashville also slices through Clarksville. It was still 10 feet above flood level mid-day Thursday in Clarksville.

Photo courtesy Tennessee Emergency Management Agen

The Nashville flood damaged not only homes but also businesses, including this movie theater in the Nashville community of Bellevue.

“Every major road in Clarksville has been flooded and we only had one street where we could reach downtown,” Dennis Pulley, associational missionary for the Cumberland Baptist Association, which is made up of about 50 churches, told Baptist Press. “The traffic has been horrendous. Any time you try and go some place, it’s a nightmare, like a parking lot.” The river is falling, Pulley said, but “not as rapidly as we would like.”

The Cumberland Baptist Association and associations like it throughout the area have listed on their website ways people can help. The associations also have online forms for flood victims requesting help.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean estimated the city suffered at least $1 billion in damage. But David Acres, director of disaster relief ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the flood is far from a Nashville-only problem.

“You’ve got so many different areas that have been affected,” he told BP.

Churches across the region are stepping up to the challenge. Two churches — Judson Baptist Church in Nashville and Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson — will host disaster relief feeding units that will prepare around 10,000 and 5,000-7,000 meals a day, respectively.

Southern Baptist disaster relief units will prepare the food and the American Red Cross will take the meals into the surrounding communities.

The flood has provided some unique opportunities for churches. Two Rivers Baptist in Nashville will host the Grand Ole Opry May 14-15 after the Opry House was flooded, interim pastor Ed Stetzer told church members in an e-mail Thursday. The church has “been assured that the content will be appropriate for our setting,” the e-mail said. Two Rivers is located less than a mile from the Opry House. Two Rivers also is hosting the final weeks of the school year for Donelson Christian Academy’s middle and high school grades, as well as the command post for Samaritan’s Post.

Acres and a crew accessed damage to Franklin Thursday and will look at the damage to Nashville Friday.

Elsewhere in the state, the Baptist and Reflector newsjournal reported:
  • The People’s Church in Franklin provided an American Red Cross Shelter May 1-4. The first night the shelter housed 11 families.
  • Bellevue Baptist Church in Nashville began serving flood victims May 4 in coordination with the mayor’s office, Tennessee Baptist disaster relief and the Nashville Baptist Association. The church had distributed about 250 family food boxes from Second Harvest Food Bank. Church members also prepared and served three meals a day beginning May 5 and distributed meals in communities. On May 5 the church served dinner to about 100 people. Bellevue Baptist pastor Mike Shelton said about half of the members of the church saw flood damage to their homes “but everybody’s safe as far as I know.” The church draws about 425 to its two Sunday morning worship services.
  • Three Baptist churches in Goodlettsville and Hendersonville — both located just north of Nashville — were flooded. Madison Creek Baptist Church in Goodlettsville received about four feet of water on its lower level, pastor Jim Ryan said. New Hope Baptist Church in Hendersonville had about three feet of water in its sanctuary and one foot in the rest of the building. Bledsoe Creek Baptist Church in Bethpage also was flooded. “I’ve seen tears shed,” said Mike Pennington, director of missions of the Bledsoe Baptist Association, based in Gallatin. “People put so much effort into their churches.”
  • First Baptist Church in Millington — 20 miles north of Memphis — began serving as an American Red Cross shelter May 3 when it housed 98 people despite the fact the church was flooded by a roof leak. Water entered the church’s foyer and flooded the 1,650-seat sanctuary, said pastor David Leavell, but the rest of the six-year-old facility was dry, so the church responded to the need. Also Faith Heritage Baptist Church and Faith Heritage Christian Academy, both in Millington, were flooded.
  • A church near Millington, Crossway Baptist Church in Brighton, was flooded by about four feet of water. The church, though, did have flood insurance, said pastor Greg Gilbreath. “If the insurance company rebuilds the building we’ll still be without a lot of things that we need,” he said.
The following counties have been declared disaster areas: Carroll, Cheatham, Crockett, Davidson, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Hickman, Houston, Madison, McNairy, Montgomery, Obion, Perry, Shelby, Tipton and Williamson.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Connie Bushey, news editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Donate to Tennessee flood disaster relief at, or by sending a check payable to TBC, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024. Be sure to include the designation “TN Floods 2010” on the check. Learn ways you can help in the Nashville area at Learn ways you can help in the Clarksville area at 

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5/7/2010 5:24:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Faith communities, moms shape giving choices

May 7 2010 by Eleanor Goldberg, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — If your mom says “you shouldn’t have” when you give her flowers on Mother’s Day, a new poll suggests you should thank her for teaching lessons on giving.

Nearly one in five Americans (17 percent) surveyed said their mothers had the most impact on their giving tendencies, second only to faith communities (22 percent), according to a poll commissioned by Thrivent Financial-Kiplinger Survey of Family Finances.

“When it comes to shaping our giving attitudes, who better to provide guidance than faith communities and moms?” said Thrivent Financial Director Patrick Egan in a statement. “Our survey suggests that both groups have opportunities to offer personal, powerful examples of selfless giving that shape our lives.”

One in 10 people cited their spouse as most influential, and mothers were more than three times as likely as fathers (22 percent versus 6 percent) to shape attitudes. Other factors included friends and extended family, at 3 percent each. One in four Americans said they were unsure about their giving influences.

Age was one clear factor in determining who influences personal giving: 34 percent of adults ages 18-24, and 21 percent of those ages 25-34, picked mom. Almost a third of seniors, however, went with religion.

The poll of 1,000 U.S. adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.  
5/7/2010 5:23:00 AM by Eleanor Goldberg, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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