May 2011

IMB, NAMB to cross ‘artificial boundaries’

May 24 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

ROCKVILLE, Va. — When Tom Billings looks at Houston today, he sees a very different city than the Houston of a generation ago.   It’s bigger, to be sure. The Texas urban giant counts more than 6 million people within its metropolitan area, now the fifth-largest metro region in the United States. But it also has become a coat of many colors — and cultures and languages.

“In 1980, Houston was a biracial southern city: black and white, mostly white,” says Billings, executive director of the Union Baptist Association, which serves some 600 Southern Baptist churches in greater Houston.

Today, it is a major immigration portal and one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse urban centers in North America. One in four Houston residents was born overseas. Billings and his ministry team have identified some 350 different ethno-linguistic people groups.

More than 150 languages are spoken by the families of students in the public schools.  

“I remind (churches) that we are responsible for reaching all of the people in the city, not just the folks that look like us,” Billings says. “It’s hard for us to cross over those barriers and boundaries in order to reach out, but we’ve got a responsibility for other people. That’s the Great Commission.”

To reach the rainbow mosaic of peoples in today’s Houston, however, Billings says he had to learn to think like a missionary — and a global mission strategist. He’s far from the only one. ‘Beyond artificial boundaries’ Billings joined 12 other leaders from Southern Baptist churches, associations, seminaries, state conventions and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) May 9-10 to trade ideas with eight International Mission Board (IMB) strategists at the IMB’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Va. The two-day roundtable, “Engaging Unreached People Groups in U.S. Urban Centers,” focused on the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly shifting cultural landscape.

“We need to get beyond artificial boundaries and geopolitical borders, even in North America,” said Ken Winter, IMB vice president for church and partner services, who organized the dialogue. “It’s a new day in partnership and collaboration between church planters, NAMB and IMB in engaging unreached peoples in North America with shared resources, training, research and strategy.”

BP photo

The New York City metro area, where NAMB missionary Steve Allen (green shirt) works, is home to about 22 million people. They speak as many as 800 languages. Two-thirds of them are first-generation immigrants or their children.

The session came two weeks after NAMB President Kevin Ezell met with IMB President Tom Elliff April 25 to brainstorm new ways to partner in mobilizing Southern Baptists to evangelize the lost, make disciples and plant new congregations. While the two mission boards have different ministry assignments and responsibilities, “we’re making a determined effort to forge a new and stronger relationship,” Elliff said after that meeting.

The urban face of North America is changing radically as the world rushes toward the United States and Canada. Refugees, immigrants, international students, high-powered executives with global corporations — they come from many places and for many different reasons. But they continue to come, settling primarily in cities. And they need to know about the love of Jesus. According to current mission research, 584 unengaged, unreached people groups can be found in North America. In other words, these groups haven’t heard the Christian gospel presented in ways they can understand it and respond to it, and no evangelical group has a viable plan to reach them. Many of them live in urban — or urbanizing — areas.

‘Global footprint’
The New York City metro area, where NAMB missionary Steve Allen works as a church catalyst for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, is home to about 22 million people. They speak as many as 800 languages. Two-thirds of them are first-generation immigrants or their children.

“We’re just starting to put a face on a lot of these people groups,” Allen said during the roundtable session. “But there’s never been a better time to engage New York and North American cities, because that’s where God is at work.”

Another example: Gwinnett County in Georgia, once primarily rural, now a part of sprawling urban/suburban greater Atlanta. Gwinnett’s population nearly doubled, to more than 800,000, between 2000 and 2010. The county plays host to some 1,400 technology companies, many of them global corporations with substantial numbers of international employees.

The roundtable participants discussed the massive research task, as well as available and needed tools and resources, obstacles to effective outreach inside and outside churches, how to build networks and partnerships — and ways IMB missionaries and strategists can “come alongside” in appropriate ways to assist.

Some of the many ideas and possible initiatives discussed: share and partner in research on unreached peoples in urban centers; develop a coordinated people-group information database; provide practical, accessible training and resources to individuals, churches, associations and teams struggling with the often-bewildering challenges of rapidly changing urban areas; connect IMB workers assigned to reach people groups overseas with churches and ministry leaders reaching out to the same peoples in North America and vice versa; increase opportunities for missionary candidates, missionaries on stateside assignment and retiring or former missionaries to work with churches and teams reaching out to unreached peoples in the United States; equip and train cross-cultural church planters in North America (potential NAMB/IMB partnership); encourage missionary applicants who cannot be sent overseas for various reasons to explore the option of engaging unreached peoples in North America.

This kind of “cross-pollination” could multiply the effectiveness of reaching the unreached wherever they are, said IMB mobilizer Terry Sharp, who works with Southern Baptist state conventions and associations. “We can partner with churches and associations in North American urban centers to orient and equip new missionaries preparing to go to international fields,” Sharp said.

For churches or individuals who want to get involved, three opportunities are on the horizon.

“EthnéCITY: Reaching the Unreached in the Urban Center,” is a gathering designed for pastors, missionaries, church planters, missions leaders or students.

The gatherings will occur Oct. 20-22 in New York, Nov. 17-19 in Houston and May 3-5, 2012, in Vancouver, Canada. Visit

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/24/2011 8:20:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Grant Ethridge to be Pastors’ Conf. Nominee

May 24 2011 by Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Grant Ethridge, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., will be nominated as president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference at its June 12-13 meeting in Phoenix, Louisiana pastor Fred Luter Jr. has announced.

“Dr. Ethridge has been a pastor for over 27 years, serving churches in Georgia, Arkansas and Virginia,” Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, said in a statement to Baptist Press May 20. Ethridge is a former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

“Under his leadership, Liberty has grown to five worship services each Sunday,” Luter said of the 6,000-plus-member church Ethridge has led the past five years. “In order to accommodate the crowds on Easter weekend 2011 the church had nine services.”

Liberty has received designations as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in the U.S., Luter stated, and has been the leading church in the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention in Cooperative Program giving, in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and in baptisms.

“With the emphasis today on unreached people groups and church planting, Dr. Ethridge and Liberty have led by example,” Luter stated. “Liberty has adopted UPGs (unreached people groups) in North Africa, Northwest Africa and the Middle East. They have been a part of planting churches in Virginia, Boston and Toronto.”

Luter also stated, “For the past three years, during these hard economic times, Liberty has sought to meet the physical needs of their own community by providing 4,800 free boxes of food [to families] to supplement the meals of a family of four for a week. Each box had all name-brand items, purchased from local businesses to help the regional economy.”

In addition to the Arkansas convention presidency, Ethridge has served on various state and national boards and entities, and his speaking engagements have included universities, seminaries, conventions, conferences, revivals, television and international mission fields.

Luter added a personal reason for his nomination of Ethridge: “The next SBC Pastors’ Conference will meet in my home city, the great city of New Orleans. When our church was destroyed, out of all the churches that called and helped, my friend, Grant Ethridge, was the first pastor to contact and help me and my congregation financially when Hurricane Katrina hit.”

Ethridge and his wife Tammy have four children — a married daughter and son, both graduates of Liberty University, and twin sons who will be attending Liberty University to prepare for full-time ministry. Another son, Christian, died in 1992. The Ethridges are expecting their first grandson in September. 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/24/2011 7:53:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BSC Board focuses on vision, Great Commission

May 23 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Members of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Board of Directors met recently for the second time this year to conduct business.

During the May 17-18 meeting at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro, members heard from a variety of committees as well as updates about other ministries.

Bobby Blanton, Board president and pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, presided over the meeting.

Great Commission Partnerships
Mike Sowers, senior consultant for Great Commission Partnerships, introduced Board members to three men helping lead efforts with the Toronto partnership: Peter Blackaby, mobilization director with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) for the Canadian Region; Dan Collison, director of Toronto Church Planting and the southern Ontario lead church planting catalyst for the Canadian National Baptist Convention and NAMB; and Jeff Christopherson, vice president of the Canadian Region with NAMB. “The kinds of people immigrating to Canada are world leaders,” said Chistopherson. “If we can reach them there we are reaching world leaders.”

He said the partnership has “been a blessing already.”

Sowers also updated the Board about the kickoff to the Moldova partnership with a trip in March and the continuing partnership with New York.

Sowers said the Boston partnership will be more defined by the September Board meeting as NAMB appointments put key people in place.

Biblical Recorder report
Pastor Gerald Hodges of Westwood Baptist Church in Roxboro, who is chairman of the Biblical Recorder Board of Directors, gave a synopsis of the search process for the Biblical Recorder’s new editor. The board met April 18 and announced the election of K. Allan Blume as editor/president. He officially started May 25.  

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Jeff Christopherson, standing, vice president of the Canadian region for the North American Mission Board, shares with the Baptist State Convention Board of Directors about the need for the partnership in Canada.

“My desire is simply to take the first word of the paper’s name and live up to it,” said Blume, who left Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone where he was pastor. In his time with the Board, Blume asked them to pray for him, his wife and the staff at the Biblical Recorder. He also encouraged them to subscribe. One way Blume hopes to bring change is to appeal to a younger audience. In that regard he encouraged the use of The site will still be available but the is easier to remember and spell.  

Board members welcomed Blume as Recorder editor in a reception following its first day’s meeting.

Vision Fulfillment
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer, distributed a printout to the Board members to highlight the ministries of the Baptist State Convention and yielded his time to Blume, who was chairman of the Vision Fulfillment committee.

Blume led the Board through a Vision Fulfillment Forum to get feedback on how the BSC is doing in promoting its Seven Pillars for Ministry, which was written by Hollifield shortly after becoming executive-director treasurer. One of the younger Board members thanked those who had held the line against liberalism.

The group kept returning to one of the questions — how to reach a younger generation. They also wanted to know how the institutions and agencies of the Baptist State Convention fit in the seven pillars. Blume stepped down from his chairman role after taking his new position at the Biblical Recorder. Aaron Wallace, who was the vice chairman, will now take that role.  

The next vision forums are:
  • May 26 at Highland Baptist Church, New London
  • June 23 at Elizabeth Baptist Church, Shelby
  • June 30 at Cape Carteret Baptist Church
  • July 14 at Village Baptist Church, Fayetteville
  • July 21 at Lewis Fork Baptist Church, Wilkesboro
North Carolina Baptist Hospital
Paul Mullen gave an update of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital (NCBH) and Mother’s Day Offering (goal = $700,000).

“God is working in very powerful ways with what we do together,” he said.

One of the largest CareNet Counseling facilities operated by NCBH is in Fayetteville. Mullen said 750 military families are served here every year.

Articles and Bylaws
After looking over the articles and bylaws, Shannon Scott, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh, indicated the committee has more changes in store. Scott said two pages of changes will be available before the next meeting.

Study committees
Blanton announced that study committees for the Baptist Faith and Message and Social Use of Alcohol have begun meeting. Both committees were formed in response to recommendations at the 2010 annual meeting.

Business Services
Board members approved the following: The Business Services committee moves that the annual audit report be accepted and that 20 (percent) of the operating net revenues from Convention activities be transferred to the Contingency Reserve.

The Board also approved the first phase of Fort Caswell’s master plan to build a youth cottage building to hold approximately 100 young people and their chaperones. Initial estimates have the cost at $1.8 million but leaders feel that they will be able to hit below that mark when all the proper permits and contracts are made. This is the first of a four-phase plan for Caswell.

Board members were also reminded that Caraway Conference Center is in the midst of its capital campaign New Beginnings. Pastors are invited to special lunches June 28 or July 19 to raise awareness of the $7.8 million campaign.

Christian Life and Public Affairs
Jarrod Scott referred to the Vision Fulfillment forums and how it applies to this committee. “We don’t speak for Baptists; it’s not our role,” said Scott. “But we do speak to Baptists.”

Scott mentioned HB 854 which is before the North Carolina House and encouraged Board members to call their representatives in support of a woman’s right to know, a bill about abortions.   Scott also mentioned that the committee hopes to present a breakout session at this year’s annual meeting in Greensboro on how to minister to homosexuals as well as work with Eddie Thompson, senior consultant for marriage and family, on creating materials for pastors and other church leaders to use in ministry.

The committee is also promoting 40 Days for Life (, a national movement in which churches conduct 24-hour, 40-day prayer vigils outside local abortion clinics. They are looking at March 2012.

He also highlighted the committee’s blog:

Church planting and missions development
Todd Marlow shared that in the first quarter of 2011, church plants in North Carolina are averaging 6,835 in worship and have amassed 794 professions of faith and 406 baptisms.

“God’s doing something,” said Marlow. “It’s pretty exciting.”

He reported that 91 church plants are receiving financial and training assistance from the Convention; 37 more await approval and funding. Since 2006, the Convention planted 613 new churches through the end of 2010.

After sharing about the importance of church planting, Marlow yielded some of his time to BSC’s Chuck Register, executive leader of the church planting and missions development group. Each Board member received a personalized demographic study to help churches build its ministries. Other N.C. Baptist churches can get a survey for $20 via Shirley Sells at If churches are thinking about planting a church they can upload names and addresses of church members and find out members’ drive time. Visit

Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute
David Horton reported that the school is adding to its satellite campuses. In conjunction with the BSC’s articles and bylaws committee, Horton said changes have been made to update Fruitland’s constitution. Copies of the new document were made available to the Board members and were approved.

Financial report
While the Convention continues to operate in the black, John Butler, executive leader for business services, said the entity is five percent behind where it usually is at the end of April 2010. Butler credited the late Easter holiday with the shortfall.

Butler said the budget was ahead at the end of March but fell $500,000 behind by April. The Convention had reduced that shortfall by half on May 6, and Butler said money for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was expected to jump as well.

Butler also reported that the Convention’s auditing firm issued a clean audit.

Woman’s Missionary Union
Ruby Fulbright, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina introduced the organization’s new president to the BSC Board.

Tana Hartsell, who is from Concord, is a member of First Baptist Church in Kannapolis. Hartsell was elected as president at the WMU-NC April meeting, which drew 1,100 participants. WMU-NC is celebrating 125 years. She praised the “courageous women who laid the vision.”

“We remain diligent, and we remain faithful,” she said.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/23/2011 8:19:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Advance focuses on gospel

May 23 2011 by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications

It all started when Tyler Jones, lead pastor of Vintage 21 Church in Raleigh, had his heart broken because he knew the truth and the truth was not pretty: the church in the southern United States resembled a bone yard. Plenty of big, beautiful church buildings dot the landscape of the South, yet statistically, the majority of them are either dying or in numerical decline.

In 2008, Jones began talking with pastors from different denominations across the South and they decided to host a conference called “Advance the Church.” This was intended to be a conference focused on how to revive the church, and bring it back to life, in the context of the “new urban South.”

Jones and other pastors from around Raleigh began gathering once a month for prayer about the conference and how to advance the church in North Carolina and throughout the South. Slowly but surely the line-up of speakers grew to include Jones, J.D. Greear, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Daniel Akin, Bryan Chapell, Mark Driscoll and John Piper. Interest started pouring in. The first conference was hosted in 2009 and has been held the last two years.

This year the Advance conference was held at the Raleigh Convention Center and featured speakers Alan Hirsch, Daniel Akin, Eric Mason, Darrin Patrick, Tyler Jones, J.D. Greear and NY Times bestselling author Timothy Keller. The theme of the conference was: “Gospel: Recovering the power that made Christianity revolutionary.” Each session featured a sermon or message on topics such as how the gospel changes ecclesiology, discipleship, church planting, the city and community, perspectives on current events, the global mission, church community, and apologetics.

Keller spoke in two sessions and began by asking the questions, “How does a life shaped by the gospel make a difference in your life? How does it shape your heart?” He then suggested that when the gospel is brought to bear on a believer’s heart it will do at least four things.

First, the gospel will bring “a new self image and forms of humility” to bear on the Christian’s life. “When the gospel comes into your life you are simultaneously a sinner and adopted and accepted and made right with God,” Keller said.

The nonbeliever’s self image is in some way always based on their performance. Yet, “when the gospel comes in we see that we are more sinful than we dared to believe while at the same time being more loved and accepted than we ever dreamed we could be,” Keller said. The gospel is quite counter-intuitive, and thus it should “deconstruct and then reconstruct us.”

Second, Keller said the gospel gives believers a new motivation and depth of joy. “Jesus took everything that we owe. He suffered physically. But he suffered emotionally also. When someone loves us like that, we love in response. Love produces love. Joy displaces fear. If you are happy enough in the gospel, then nothing people say about you will change your opinion of yourself or depress you.”

Third, the gospel gives the believer a new set of values by which to live. The gospel gives the believer what looks like, by the world’s standards, upside down values. “Jesus came not with a sword in his hand but with nails in his hands. He won by loosing. He triumphed in defeat. He was made famous by serving,” Keller said.

Fourth, the gospel gives the believer a general unpredictability of thought. Keller argued that, “Christianity is the most pessimistic and the most optimistic way of looking at the world. The Protestant doctrine of total depravity is the most pessimistic doctrine of humanity that exists. But the gospel is the most optimistic solution to the human predicament (sin) that exists.”

Keller’s second session focused on how the gospel drives apologetics, as people generally want to know what Christians believe and why they believe it.

The “what” question is answered by the gospel and apologetics answers the “why” question. “You have to be able to tell people ‘what’ and ‘why’ or else they won’t give you the time of day. Apologetics is a defense of the gospel, not the gospel itself,” Keller said.

Keller warned against taking pride in doctrine or in one’s ability and skills. Apologetics is not winning an argument; it’s about sharing the hope and grace of the gospel.

Keller concluded by saying that at the heart of a skeptic is really faith, as it takes faith to doubt Christianity. “The only way to judge the natural world as being bad (evil, suffering) is to have a supernatural view of it. Where do we get that supernatural view from? If there is no God then everything is relative and deep down everyone knows that,” Keller said. “The Christian has to show people that it takes more faith to doubt it than to believe it. Tell the Biblical narrative in such a way that people wish it was true; once you get them there, then you can do apologetics.”

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/23/2011 8:14:00 AM by Thomas Crane, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Toronto planters on mission to change city

May 23 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

TORONTO — With a good job, his own business in fact, Rudy Geronimo didn’t see himself and his family leaving the Philippines.

His wife Edna didn’t want to leave either.

Yet, in 2002, they decided to move to Canada in an effort to give their three children a better future than what they had, a better life.

At least, they thought they were moving for their children. As it turns out, God had a much bigger vision in mind for the Geronimos.

Geronimo, who has been a Christian since age 14 when he prayed to receive Jesus Christ during a house church service, has a degree in Metallurgy and got a job with an aluminum company in Toronto. When they first moved to Toronto, before he was able to work full time with the aluminum company, he also worked at Wal-Mart.

Geronimo and his family got involved in a church in Scarborough, which is about 20 minutes from downtown Toronto. Geronimo and his wife joined the music ministry and Geronimo served as a deacon. A few years went by and Geronimo sensed that something needed to change in his life.

BSC photo

Arnold and Teresa Wong, church planters in the Bantry Avenue area at the southern tip of Richmond Hill, participate in a podcast in Toronto. The Canadian National Baptist Convention does not have a Chinese church, or any church, within walking distance of this area. The Wongs minister among nearly 500 Chinese families. Visit to listen to podcasts from the Wongs as well as other church planters in the Greater Toronto Area. Visit Click Photo Gallery.

“I wanted to do more,” he said. That “more” turned into a desire to start reaching more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to do so through starting a church.

The church they were attending was not really involved in church planting, so Geronimo joined with three other families to start a Filipino church.

The church plant increased in membership; however, Geronimo envisioned planting a church and growing it not with believers from other churches, but with new converts.

“I wanted this to grow from evangelism from the harvest,” he said.   In 2009, Geronimo started Kingdom Harvest Missional Church. The church meets in Geronimo’s home and includes Haitian, Jamaican, Filipino and Caucasian families.

The church is focused on reaching the un-churched, multicultural community of Scarborough. The community includes many residents who are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Geronimo is still bivocational, working full time for the aluminum company and pastoring Kingdom Harvest.

Geronimo is praying that Kingdom Harvest will truly become a missional church as they seek to plant other churches and send out missionaries into Toronto and the world. Although small in number now, Germonio said the church is “discipling the core so they will make disciples.”   Geronimo is also praying for Kingdom Harvest to make a difference in Toronto.

“We want to be of value to the community,” he said. “Every month we go out and meet the community.”

Widen the circle

Like Geronimo, Tim Heerebout didn’t set out to become a church planter.

He was serving as a worship pastor at a church in Toronto and thought things were going along just fine. “During devotions one morning it dawned on me. The stories I was reading in the scriptures about how people were living their life wasn’t really matching up with mine,” he said. “I started taking inventory of how many people I knew outside the walls of the church I was working in. And the number was exactly zero.”

Heerebout didn’t even really know what church planting was at the time. It took him about a month to tell his wife Melissa he was thinking about starting a church. At the time Melissa was eight months pregnant with their first child and they had recently moved into a new home.

Although the idea of planting a church was overwhelming, about a month after Layla was born, Melissa told Tim she knew this was something they had to do.

Melissa and Tim are reaching out to the artistic community of Toronto. From musicians to painters to jewelry makers, they are seeking to build relationships. To help do this, they started a non-profit organization that supports local art and humanitarian causes.

As Tim and Melissa meet people through the non-profit, they pray for opportunities to tell them about God and about Montage, the new church plant. Although still in the beginning stages, Heerebout is already casting vision.

“We need to get our people serving their communities,” he said. “The lifeblood of our church is going to exist in missional teams.”

He prays people will take notice of the church in the community and ask why it is they do what they do. Then they can share the gospel and tell them it is because they follow Jesus Christ.

For more information contact Michael Sowers at or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)

Related story
Church planting focus of new Toronto partnership
5/23/2011 7:59:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Messianic Jew shares Jesus with Arab youth

May 23 2011 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

ISRAEL — Jay* doesn’t have flashbacks, but he does think often about the day he saw a neighborhood of fellow Israelis get gunned down around him.

“There were bullets flying over our heads,” he said. “It was intense urban warfare.” He and fellow soldiers were pursuing the shooters from house to house as the wounded lay around him. A little boy got the first bullet. A little girl, fleeing into a tent set up for the Feast of Tabernacles, took one next and fell face forward into the tent. Neither recovered.

“We had to clear all the houses and all the tents set up for the feast, just to make sure shooters weren’t hiding in them,” Jay recounted.

That was several years ago, but now every year when he sees the tents or builds them for his family, he remembers the day he walked through them with his gun drawn. And he thinks of the teens who did the shooting – 17- or 18-year-olds — and he wonders one thing: “What kind of message did they get from those who invested in their lives? What kind of message of anger and hate in their lives made them willing to give themselves to kill and avenge?”

And he committed to do everything he could to teach a different message — one of hope and unity in Jesus Christ.

Jay, a Messianic Jew, had for years already spent time reaching across the Jewish-Palestinian divide to train youth leaders in the Palestinian territories. He also had long been committed to building relationships with teens who live there and connecting them with Jewish youth leaders and teens.

“The shooting didn’t change my heart to work with the Palestinian people. We had to pursue the shooters, but because of Christ, I can still turn around and say we are to love these people with the love of Jesus,” Jay said. “Yes, as I carried the dead away that day, I was sad and hurt over the situation. But it gave me even more of a burden for Arab teens.” The deep strife between Jews and Palestinians has long been inflamed, but Jay is convinced that hearts changed by Christ can be the catalyst for peace.

“There are many cultural and theological differences, many years of pain and anger. But when we focus not on the conflict but on Christ, we see each other through Christ,” he said. Once at a moment of high tension between the two groups, Jay was with a group of Palestinian teens sharing prayer requests, and someone mentioned that he would be going to do reserve work for a month in the Israeli military.

The teens tentatively prayed for him, and afterward as they were getting on the bus to go home, one paused.

“Did you say that you are going to be with the military for a month starting in two weeks?” he asked.

“Yes,” Jay said.

The teen paused. “I will stop throwing stones at soldiers when you go.”

It was one sign of changing hearts, Jay said.

“It’s typical for Palestinian teens to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers for fun,” he said. “It was different once he knew one of the soldiers.”

The depth of tension is great, Jay said.

Most recently on May 15, Palestinians gathered at Israeli borders to protest on the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe,” their commemorating of the founding of the Israeli state in 1948. As protests escalated, 10 or more fatalities were reported, with each side blaming the other for the outbreak.

There’s a lot for the two groups to overcome. But the Gospel of Jesus is even more powerful than any tension, Jay said.

“We are called to be salt and light — change agents in the world,” he said. “Unity in Christ is the sign to the world that God sent His Son. If we love God, and if we want to share the Gospel, there has to be unity. And if there is, then God will be shown to the world.”

Jay asked for Christians to pray:
  • for unity, growth and boldness to be open about faith in Jesus Christ.
  • for Jewish and Palestinian believers to continue to be change agents among their people and express God’s love to each other.
  • for spiritual growth among the young people of both people groups.
  • that both people groups would find peace in Jesus Christ.
*Name has been changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/23/2011 7:52:00 AM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

South’s residents find hope amid chaos

May 20 2011 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Armando Sesena, his wife and daughter are now staying with family, but their house is gone – swept away three minutes after they ran to their basement.

“Three minutes,” Sesena said. “We were in the basement three minutes then whoosh.”

He pointed to what might be part of a wall of his former home, but in a field of spilled-out houses in Tuscaloosa, Ala., it’s hard for people with upturned lives to tell or care what’s theirs. An EF5 tornado churned up the town on its multi-state path April 27, making a long, belabored cut through downtown Tuscaloosa.

Photo by John Swain.

John Tilley from Westwood Baptist Church in Palestine, Texas, reaches to chainsaw heavy broken branches of a hardwood threatening a roof in Tuscaloosa. As part of the Texas disaster recovery unit, Tilley and members of other Baptist units began work in parts of Alabama following on EF5 tornado that cut across the southeast April 27.

The storm destroyed whole communities across parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia killing more than 300 people.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) crews rolled in the next day from Alabama, then from nine other states, hearing stories of how looters created fresh wounds in an already-wounded city.

But they also heard stories of people caring for one another.

As an SBDR chainsaw team from Texas cut away an oak that crushed her Birmingham home, Tia Graham said she remembers her prayer of gratitude.

“We put a helmet on my granddaughter and hid in the laundry room. I’d heard of tornados. They said you hear a freight train, but it was five times louder than a freight train. We thought, ‘This is it,’” Graham said. “Then everything went quiet and we realized we were still here. There was debris falling everywhere. We prayed and thanked God we were alive.

“Everybody came and checked on us,” Graham said. “It was amazing how much people cared.”

Tuscaloosa resident Gloria Reed broke down amid piles of pines stacked high by a Texas SBDR chainsaw crew.

“I’m 72 years old, a widow, it was just terrible,” Reed said. “When a train passes I jump. Even that little roar of jet sounds different.

“These people showed up. They were a gift from God,” Reed added, referring to the SBDR team cutting down, cutting up and hauling trees to the street and away from her house. “I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t shown up.”

To date, SBDR units have reported for the spring storms:
  • 13,469 volunteer days
  • 259,451 meals prepared
  • 1,738 chainsaw jobs
  • 17 mudout jobs
  • 532 chaplaincy contacts
  • 383 Gospel presentations
  • 53 professions of faith
“It’s amazing what becomes unimportant and what people cling to when something like this hits your life,” said North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell, who has visited sites in Alabama. “Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers provide a demonstration of God’s love and an opportunity for people to embrace Him.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to NAMB’s disaster relief fund can go to and hit the “donate now” button. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Checks should be designated for “Southern Storms 2011.” Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR” to the number “40579.” A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/20/2011 9:34:00 AM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

During flood, Nat'l Guard bonds with church

May 20 2011 by Jennifer Archdekin, Baptist Press

CARUTHERSVILLE, Mo. – A Sunday evening service between members of First Baptist Church in Caruthersville, Mo., and citizen soldiers with the Missouri National Guard turned into an exchange of gratitude and indebtedness between the two groups as well as a time of praise to God.

Just outside the door of the community center where soldiers had been living and working, the Mississippi River was still swollen but had been contained.

During a hymn, the audience was invited to shout out what they were thankful for. Without missing a beat, people named the National Guard, receding waters, sunshine, each other and food.

Photo by Missouri National Guard.

Susan Pinkerton, missions coordinator for First Baptist Church in Caruthersville, Mo., visits with National Guard Capt. Juan Valencia.

Church members had provided lunch for a week to the guardsmen. About 350 meals were made daily for the soldiers as well as other volunteers and workers helping with the town’s flood situation. People rotated into the church to eat, and those who could not leave their stations had meals delivered to them.

“We wanted to make sure these guys got fed,” said Susan Pinkerton, mission coordinator for First Baptist Caruthersville. “I sent out over 200 to-go meals one day.”

Typically, soldiers on missions such as this receive two hot meals a day and generally eat an MRE, or meal-ready-to-eat, for lunch. But Pinkerton and other church members wanted to show love and appreciation by giving back.

Pinkerton, who teaches school in Caruthersville and lives just outside of town, said the church tried to plan a mission trip to Haiti earlier in the year but their funds did not come together and the trip was put on hold.

“We felt like God would tell us what we needed to do,” Pinkerton said.

Little did they know God would call them to serve in a mission field literally in their own backyard.

When asked what the evening meant to her, Pinkerton fought back tears.

“Thank you,” she said. “I can’t even tell you what it means.”

Though the community is quick to give credit to the National Guard, they also give glory to God for His protection during a difficult time.

“I’m thankful for the hand of God that pulled back two feet of water,” Doug Boyd, pastor of First Baptist Caruthersville, said. “We praise God for that.”

The sentiment was echoed by the troops and Capt. Juan Valencia, commander of the 1140th Engineer Battalion, which is based in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

“Thank you, and thanks to the Lord,” Valencia said.

The success of a mission, Valencia noted, can be attributed in part to high morale. The high spirits of his troops were a result, in large part, of the meals and affirming words from the townspeople.

“The morale has been through the roof,” Valencia said. “I know my soldiers, that when they’re hungry they get really grouchy, and that never happened. We’re taking home a lot of good memories and a couple of extra pounds.”

In a short time, these Missourians quickly forged a bond with each other. As a final thank you, the church presented a video reflecting not only on the destruction of the flood but showcasing the work the National Guard did in helping save their town.

As the Newsboys song “Build Us Back” played, images flashed on the screen showing more hope than devastation.

The lyrics, “We’ve been crumbled, we’ve been crushed, city walls have turned to dust,” took on significant meaning. “Broken hands and blistered feet, we walk for miles to find relief.... You build us back, you build us back.”

That night, 1st Lt. Jeffrey Plair, a Missouri National Guard chaplain, closed his sermon with another word of appreciation.

“We are overwhelmed with everything you all have done,” Plair said. “I haven’t ever seen anything or experienced anything like it. They talk about morale when you go on missions. This one has been through the roof. Out of 10 it has been an 11, and it’s just been because of the people here.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jennifer Archdekin writes for the Missouri National Guard.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/20/2011 9:27:00 AM by Jennifer Archdekin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BeachReach leads to changed lives

May 20 2011 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – The young man showed up an hour early at the Panama City Beach bowling alley and shyly said he had come for the free pancake breakfast.

Tired-looking and a bit disheveled, he sat slouched against the building, squinting in the rising Florida sun and eying the laughing, bustling volunteers flipping pancakes and preparing for the day’s visitors.

Like most kids on spring break in Panama City Beach, the young man had stories that began to spill out when he was engaged by students – students on mission with BeachReach.

His friends were in constant party mode. He had been in fights. He came from a broken home. He was tired of it all. He had remembered receiving a card on the beach advertising a free pancake breakfast at the bowling alley and had walked four miles that morning to get there.

When thousands of college students and young adults converge on America’s beaches every spring break, local residents and anyone else not associated with the party scene will stay away from the beaches until the raucous festivities run their course.

But for nearly 15 years BeachReach, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, has been a place for collegiate ministry groups to engage in a unique mission experience of combining service with hands-on evangelism.

During each of the two weeks of spring break in 2011, about 450 college students from all over the nation converged on Panama City Beach for the purpose of ministering to their peers.

Photo by Russ Rankin

Volunteer Rachel Moore from First Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas, promotes the BeachReach free pancake breakfast in Panama City Beach, Fla., with the help of Billy Luke, a student at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Mich.

“BeachReach is such a frontline ministry,” said Sarah Edwards, part of LifeWay’s training and events staff and coordinator of BeachReach. “It’s one of LifeWay’s best events because we’re mobilizing college students by the thousands, immersing them in a ministry laboratory among their peers who aren’t living for Christ and giving them an opportunity to impact their peers with the love and compassion of Jesus.”

The process is straightforward. Each morning, students serve free pancakes cooked up on a Georgia Baptist disaster relief mobile kitchen and engage their peers in friendly, pointed conversation that often leads to topics such as grace, hope, forgiveness, self-worth and redemption.

As night falls, Panama City Beach puts on its other skin and the main beach road converts into one noisy, pulsating party as college students meet at dance clubs and bars after a day of soaking in the sun.

For the BeachReachers, the nighttime is when their action begins as well. After a time of corporate worship and inspiring teaching, groups divide into a variety of strategic assignments.

Some groups walk the strip to prayerwalk and look for opportunities to engage people in conversation. Another group works a high-tech command center, taking calls from spring breakers looking for rides. The bulk of the BeachReachers divide into their 15-passenger vans to provide spring breakers a free and safe ride during the evening.

When the van doors open, the BeachReachers have to be ready for anything.

“You get two types of people getting on the vans at night – those who are all excited about getting to a party and then there are those girls who are scared and see the van as a safe haven,” said Rachael Moore, who went to BeachReach for the first time four years ago as a student at Texas A&M University. This year she returned as a collegiate leader of a group of 63 students from First Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas.

“It can be scary,” Moore said. “They’ve come to the beach with these dreams of fun partying with no parental distraction, but then they realize that it’s not what they came expecting. It breaks your heart to see that, but that’s why we need to be here.”

Cruising slowly down the main drag one night, Moore’s Texas A&M teammates prayed fervently that they would have the opportunity to share Christ’s love in a clear, relevant way with their passengers.

“This type of ministry and outreach involves an intense amount of spiritual warfare,” said Garrett Milner, a ministry associate in the First Baptist Bryan college department. “The first night we go out, you can see our students are a bit apprehensive. But all it takes is that first conversation. By the end of the week they can’t wait to get in the vans at night for the ride ministry.”

Milner’s wife of eight months, Leigh, sat beside him serving as navigator and receiving command center calls relaying pickup instructions. Throughout the night, Leigh multitasked with her cell phone, sending prayer requests via text messages that were being shown in real-time in the prayer room.

Photo by Russ Rankin

Leigh Milner engages a van rider after answering a call to pick up a group of students during spring break in Panama City Beach, Fla. Milner and her husband Garrett led a BeachReach team from First Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas.

In the back of the van, BeachReacher Josh Tual, a junior at Texas A&M, said the confines of the van are disarming.

“No matter what they’re like when they climb in the van – happy, mad or drunk –you can see that so many of these students out here are feeling insecure, lost and lonely,” Tual said. “Most are open to sharing with us and appreciate that we are actually interested in spending a few minutes climbing into their story.

“It’s very real to me that we only have a few minutes, so the intentionality of presenting Jesus in a real way is so important,” he said.

Edwards said that while BeachReach “is such a successful and rewarding event for LifeWay because of the planning and participation, the significant thing is so beyond what we can do. It really is a movement of God.”

Mark Mangrem, pastor of Connect Church in Arlington, Texas, and speaker for both weeks of BeachReach, has been going to BeachReach for 12 years, even though his first year was supposed to be his last.

“I had just become student pastor at a church. The college group was scheduled to go to BeachReach, but I had my own ideas for what we should do,” Mangrem recounted. “But since it was too late to cancel, we went ahead and came but with the understanding that I would be changing the missions focus the next year.

“God did a major work in me at BeachReach,” he said. “He got me out of my comfort zone and gave me a heart for lost people that I did not have before. As a result of our participation, our student ministry just exploded, and I’ve been back ever since.”

The best byproduct of BeachReach, Mangrem said, is that students return to their campuses with a sense of urgency to share the Gospel on their campuses. He even planted a church in 2003 based on the approach taught at BeachReach.

“It’s all about the intentionality of reaching lost people,” he said. “The people who had been to BeachReach before who helped plant the church just got it. It clicked, and that is our approach at church. BeachReach is about an intentional investment with the Gospel.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Rankin is manager of editorial services for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/20/2011 9:16:00 AM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rio school shootings spark Baptists’ outreach

May 20 2011 by Maria Elena Baseler, Baptist Press

RIO DE JANEIRO – A pair of pink and purple heart-shaped balloons, bouquets of fresh flowers and hand-written notes lined the sidewalk outside Tasso da Silveira primary school in Rio de Janeiro. A poster with 12 names on it – surrounded by photos, artwork, letters and signs – decorated the concrete wall above the walkway.

They were the names of 12 Brazilian children killed by a disturbed gunman inside the school April 7.

Standing at the scene, International Mission Board missionary Eric Reese held a dozen pieces of white paper, preparing to make his own contribution to the homemade memorial outside this public school in Realengo, a lower-middle-class neighborhood of western Rio.

Reese, a missionary in Rio, and Samuel Rozolem, a Brazilian Southern Baptist pastor in Maryland, posted the papers on the wall.

Each page noted the name of one of the slain students. Under each name, this message appeared:

“Southern Baptists in the United States are praying for the family.”

Then, there were these words of hope:

IMB Photo by Samuel Rozolem.

At a makeshift memorial outside Tasso da Silveira primary school in Rio de Janeiro, International Mission Board missionary Eric Reese pays tribute to the 12 students killed in a shooting at the school. Reese is preparing to post on the wall 12 pieces of paper, each bearing the name of a student who died. Under each name, this message appears: “Southern Baptists in the United States are praying for the family.”

“God himself will be with them. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 21:3-4, paraphrased).

Many tears have been shed in Realengo in the weeks since Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, 23, shot dead 12 students, then killed himself after being shot by police. The victims included 10 girls and two boys, ages 10 to 13. One, a 13-year-old girl, was an evangelical Christian who attended a church near the school.

Oliveira, posing as a visiting speaker, entered a classroom with two handguns and lined up students before shooting them execution-style in the head, news reports said. The shootings were motivated by bullying Oliveira suffered while attending the school years earlier, according to messages police found in the gunman’s home.

An additional 12 students were injured in the school massacre, the first of its kind in Brazil. Several students remain in the hospital, two of them in critical condition. The school reopened April 18, but some students are too traumatized to go back, Reese said.

“Pray for healing, not only physical healing but spiritual healing, for this community,” said Reese, who serves as a megacity strategist in Rio. “Pray for Christians to come alongside these families. This is such a great opportunity to bring the Gospel and to be there to say, ‘Where there is no hope, there is hope because in Christ is the hope of glory. And to say, ‘You know it’s a dark day, but the Bible says, ‘weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’”

Reese has been sharing the hope of Christ since the shooting occurred, visiting families, teachers and some of the injured students. Brazilian Baptist Leila Ferreira Andrade, a teacher at another public school in the area, has coordinated the visits and accompanied Reese on some of them. She is a member of Realengo’s First Baptist Church.

Southern Baptist pastor Samuel Rozolem, a native of Rio and a friend of Reese, got involved for a day while he was on vacation with his family in Brazil. Besides visiting the makeshift memorial at the school, Rozolem went along to minister to an injured student and his family and a teacher who saw eight of her students shot.

“It was an honor to be there and minister to these families,” said Rozolem, pastor of Nations United Baptist Church, a Brazilian congregation in Silver Spring, Md.

“The families are in much need of our continued support. The (media) spotlights soon will be gone.... We should not let this pass without making a difference in their lives. The name of Jesus must be lifted up in such a time as this.”

IMB missionaries in Rio asked Southern Baptists to pray not only for students, families, teachers and school administrators directly affected by the shootings but also for the entire nation of Brazil.

“The tragedy has put the whole country in shock,” missionary Elena Key said. “It’s kind of like when Columbine (Colorado school shootings in 1999) happened in the States.

“Rio is a city with a lot of violence. People here live with the idea that they could be the next victim,” Key said. “But children are sort of a ‘no man’s zone’” as targets of violent crime. “Brazilians are very family-oriented, and children are looked at as very, very special. … So for someone to go in and kill innocent children like this, it’s been a big shock to the nation.

“Pray for comfort for the parents and the families and that somehow – from a tragedy such as this – that people’s hearts will be turned toward God,” Key added.

Echoing that same prayer request, Reese asked Southern Baptists to pray for him and his Brazilian team members as they counsel with Realengo residents directly affected by the massacre. “Pray for wisdom. Pray for rest. Pray that God will continue to send people who will work alongside us in this ministry,” he said.

In fact, prayer is what has opened doors to begin sharing the Gospel with families of victims, students and teachers, Reese said. When news broke about the tragedy, he went to the scene and began praying for wisdom about how Baptists might be able to minister. Reese has seen plenty of death in his ministry among drug dealers in the gang-controlled slums of Rio. But this situation was different.

As news media, families and friends swarmed the school, Reese stood on the sidewalk, simply watching and praying. “I began to weep,” said Reese, the father of two girls ages 13 and 9. “I was so moved by the number of kids who were killed.”

“Our hearts have been grieving for the parents of the 12 children who died,” Key said. “As a parent of a teenager, I can’t imagine the pain these parents are going through.”

In counseling with some of the parents, Reese has shared his own story of grief – when his wife Ramona lost an unborn baby boy seven-and-a-half months into her pregnancy.

“I’ve been saying to people, ‘We weep. We cry. We go through tough times. But because we have Jesus, joy comes in the morning,’” Reese said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Maria Elena Baseler is an International Mission Board writer/editor living in the Americas.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact or call 919-847-2127.)
5/20/2011 9:00:00 AM by Maria Elena Baseler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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