May 2011

Bob Fu: ‘how little religious freedom China has’

May 11 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — Leaders from dozens of Chinese house churches are petitioning the Chinese government for more religious freedom in an act that observers call unprecedented.

The text of the petition is not yet public, but ChinaAid — a U.S.-based group that monitors freedom in the country — said the petition, which could endanger the leaders, would be the “first such move in 60 years of communist rule of China.” Interest in the petition was sparked by the government’s ongoing high-profile crackdown against Shouwang Church, an unregistered Beijing congregation that has seen hundreds of its members placed either under house or detained by police since April.

Churches in China must register with the government to be legal, but such registration results in restrictions on their religious freedom — including limits on evangelism and Sunday Schools. The Chinese government has prevented Shouwang from meeting in recent weeks, blocking all congregational attempts to gather either indoors or outdoors. The clash between the government and Shouwang has drawn international attention, including segments on CNN and the BBC.

Most estimates say the Chinese house church movement is significantly larger than the registered church membership.

Baptist Press spoke with Bob Fu, ChinaAid founder and president, about Shouwang, the recent house church crackdown, and the desire for churches to go underground. Following is a partial transcript:

BP: Shouwang has been meeting for many years. Why is China just now cracking down on the church?

The church has been targeted since 2008. Ironically, they had been trying to register with the government, and of course the government wants them to join the government-sanctioned church organization, the Three-Self Patriotic Church. But the government denied their registration attempt. They were tolerated until 2008. In December 2010, there was a government operation, Operation Deterrence — it was a special operation targeting independent house churches. Of course, Shouwang church had purchased a building for about $4 million in December 2009 but has not been able to get the key to the building; the government had been trying every way to sabotage their rental arrangements in different facilities. Their last rental facility was a restaurant that was pressured to not continue working with the church. So Shouwang Church has really been forced to move outdoors.

There are two circumstances that made the government take the radical action like they did in April this year. Number one, Shouwang played an instrumental role in organizing the 200 delegates to the Lausanne (Congress on Global Evangelization in South Africa). I think, for the first time, the government really saw the independent house churches trying to be on the international stage. That really made the government extremely nervous. Number two was the Jasmine Revolution (in North Africa/the Middle East).

BP: So you think the Chinese government is afraid that what happened in Egypt and other countries could happen to China?

They’re very, very afraid. The Chinese security forces have been on high alert because of what’s happening in Tunisia, Egypt. They are really in panic and in a paranoid mood.

BP: How is the Chinese government’s mindset different from a Western mindset? Why are they so suspicious of Christianity?

Historically, Christianity has always been suspected as a Western force, as a Western religion. In the Chinese government’s propaganda, it’s always been associated with the free world. Of course, the most rapid-growing religion in China is Christianity, especially in the past 60 years. The growth is really astonishing. Some estimate there are 70 to 130 million Christians. Since the Tiananmen massacre 22 years ago, there has been a major revival of the house churches in the cities, especially among the Chinese intellectuals.

The Christian worldview and values really, I think, made the Chinese government afraid. The Christian worldview is contradictory to the materialistic worldview. Also, the (house church’s) enormous manifestation of care, love to the society, to the needy — you would think these are the things that the Chinese government also wanted. Almost half of the volunteers and the rescue workers to the 2008 earthquake were Chinese house church members. That became a scary thing to the Chinese leadership. They actually started a campaign to keep out these volunteers from the earthquake area. Some were even put in prison.

BP: They were put in prison?

Yes, for doing good. Of course, when the house churches were helping, they also spread the gospel. So the government was very scared. Some Christians were detained.

BP: Help our readers understand another key issue: Why would a church not want to be a government-recognized registered church?

Fundamentally, the number one reason is focused on who is the head of the church? Is it the Communist Party, the Chinese government or Jesus Christ alone? The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is nothing but a political organization with a religious uniform. All the leaders are appointed by the Communist Party, the United Front Work Department, and the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and they are salaried. And many of the leaders are also Communist Party members. Secondly, once you join the government-sanctioned church, you lose pretty much all the freedom of evangelism. There are lots of limitations and rules that will forbid you to do any evangelism outside of the four walls of the church building. You can’t baptize anybody under 18 years old, you’re forbidden to have a Sunday School. There are fundamental differences.

BP: Why would the Chinese government restrict Sunday Schools?

Fu: This is part of the clash with the Communist Party, because they view those under 18 years old as the successors of socialism.... For children, Sunday School is certainly a forbidden policy.

BP: So in a registered church, a Sunday morning worship service would just be a worship service? 

Yes, just a worship service.

BP: ChinaAid says the Chinese government may take new measures against the church. What would those measures be?

We heard form a reliable internal government source, and it collaborated with other sources — apparently the government is planning to take a radical escalation to make some formal arrests on these Shouwang Church leaders.

BP: And we are talking about possible prison time?


BP: Is this the most high-profile church-state confrontation you can remember?

In the city setting, it is the most visible. There have been major clashes between house church groups — most of them in rural areas.

BP: A lot of these members have been placed under house arrest. What does that mean, and is it only on Sunday mornings?

For the five church leaders — two pastors and three elders — they have been under house arrest since April 9, which means they don’t have any freedom of movement to get out of the house. There was one occasion two weeks ago (involving a church family) when one little baby fell from the seventh floor of a building and died, so (Senior) Pastor Jin Tianming begged the guards outside his house, and he was escorted by two guards to pray for the baby’s parents in the hospital. For the rest of the members, most of them are not allowed to get out of their homes from Saturday night until Monday morning, and some are prevented from going home from Friday to Monday or Tuesday.

BP: And people are having their jobs threatened for their participation?

Yes, some lost their jobs, some lost their apartments.

BP: Is this serving to educate the public around the world about the lack of religious freedom in China?

Absolutely. This case basically highlights a very moderate church. When Shouwang Church wanted to register, they received lots of criticism, because some house churches do not want to have anything to do with the government. So Shouwang walked an extra mile to register, and now they are being targeted. It will help the free world to see how little religious freedom China has.

BP: What else would you want our readers to know?

I think we should urge the churches in the free world, especially the American churches, to really speak up for this church. We need more churches to speak up, because this church is facing danger. If we are silent, that will be a real mistake. I really do want to make that appeal.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of BP.)

(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.)  
5/11/2011 9:17:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ala. DR: 5,900 volunteers from 10 states

May 10 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has mobilized nearly 5,900 trained volunteers from 10 state conventions since deadly tornadoes ripped across Alabama — killing more than 250 on April 27.

In addition to the large-scale tornado response in Alabama, state DR coordinators in Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas are bracing for the serious flooding expected along the swollen Mississippi River.

The floodwaters are expected to generate a heavy demand for SBDR feeding and mud-out units in the affected areas. The Kentucky state disaster relief team planned to deploy a 20,000-capacity feeding unit to Paducah on May 9.

In Memphis, the river is expected to crest at a near-record 14 feet above flood stage on Tuesday, May 10. The river is the highest it’s been at Memphis since 1937, when it crested at 48.7 feet — 14.7 feet above flood stage. That flood killed 500 people and covered 20 million acres of land, according to CNN.

In Alabama, Mel Johnson, disaster relief director for Alabama Baptists’ State Board of Missions, said Southern Baptist feeding units have prepared more than 162,000 meals and are still doing mass feeding in Tuscaloosa, Madison, Rainsville, Birmingham, Snead’s Crossroads and Double Springs.

“I just want to publicly praise these 10 state conventions and the North American Mission Board who have stepped up to the plate and helped us organize the incoming teams,” Johnson said May 9 at the SBDR incident command center in Montgomery, Ala.

Photo from the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

Leon White — one of 200-plus Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains ministering across Alabama — comforts Caprice Drake, a resident of Cullman, outside tornado-ravaged East Side Baptist Church.

Although chainsaw and clean-up/recovery teams from several states have chalked up about 750 jobs so far, Johnson said the numbers for completed chainsaw jobs traditionally come in slow as teams get deeper into the areas of significant destruction.

“Next week, I expect the number of completed chainsaw jobs to go up a lot,” Johnson said.

He also said 22 of the initial 30 shower units deployed in Alabama are still operating.

Among the 5,900 volunteers in Alabama is a large and growing contingent of more than 200 Southern Baptist DR chaplains, including Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) chaplains, from Alabama as well as other state conventions.

“The CISM chaplains are highly skilled, specially trained chaplains who are deployed to go into the ‘ground zero’ situations,” Johnson said. “They’re equipped to deal with significant emotional trauma — trying to help people cope with high levels of stress brought on by grief over lost loved ones and loss of property.

“And these chaplains, who are fanned out across Alabama, are not just comforting the tornado victims, but also first-responders. Even the responders can’t move through these areas, see the devastation and not be affected.”

Johnson said the Alabama State Board of Missions staff already is meeting with local directors of missions, association staff and pastors to offer emotional and spiritual support.

“We’re meeting with them to also advise them about what resources are available for their church members,” he said, adding that the state staff will be working with associations to hold additional grief-comforting sessions at churches across Alabama in the months ahead.

So far, Johnson and the state board of missions staff has identified 46 churches in 29 local Alabama associations adversely affected by the April 27 tornadoes. The churches’ damages vary from total to moderate destruction, he said.

“This is going to be a long-term area of ministry for the Alabama State Board of Missions,” Johnson said. “But supporting churches have already stepped up, drawing communities to local Baptist churches and people to Christ. Long-term, we’re going to help churches plan for the future and engage them to use this as an opportunity for outreach.”

Johnson also had a few tips for churches that want to spontaneously go into a tornado-ravaged area and offer assistance.

“I will never discourage neighbors who want to assist neighbors,” he said. “Spontaneous volunteerism is a blessing. But both supporting churches and churches needing assistance need to have a plan.

“Say a city is under curfew or parts of it are closed off, even to homeowners. Groups who come into a community and don’t have a plan can compound the problems and cause higher stress for local law enforcement and emergency personnel. Supporting churches should coordinate with local churches to make sure the needs are actually there.”

Johnson said Southern Baptist Disaster Relief personnel are credentialed, trained and coordinated — “so the local law enforcement and emergency people don’t have to worry about us.”

According to the latest statistics from NAMB’s disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., the SBDR response also has generated:
  • 8,111 volunteer days
  • more than 4,200 showers and laundry loads
  • 280 chaplaincy contacts and 100 gospel presentations
  • 16 professions of faith
  • a total of almost 2,500 ministry contacts
State conventions responding in the aftermath of the deadly Alabama tornadoes include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, the Southern Baptists of Texas and Texas Baptist Men.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. For information about donations to Alabama Baptists’ disaster relief efforts, go to Other donations to disaster relief can be made to state conventions or through the North American Mission Board. To donate to NAMB’s disaster relief fund, 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.)
5/10/2011 10:51:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Cry for freedom’ unfolding in Middle East

May 10 2011 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A cry for freedom is unfolding in the Middle East and opening doors for the Gospel, Heather Mercer, a former captive in Afghanistan and now an aid worker in Iraq, observed on a recent six-week trip to the region.

“It’s such an amazing time to be in the Middle East, especially in light of the assassination of bin Laden. The Middle East will never be the same,” Mercer told Baptist Press. “We see the timing of God and the grace of God being released over that part of the world for the cause of freedom.”

Mercer returned to the United States May 4 from a trip to northern Iraq, where she found “an overwhelming sense of people speaking more boldly about the cause of freedom” than she has witnessed in the nearly eight years she has been working in the country.

“As we interacted with the local people and the local government, there was a tremendous hunger in the hearts of people to live free,” she said.

Along with Dayna Curry and a handful of westerners, Mercer was held captive by the Taliban for 105 days in 2001 before being rescued by U.S. Special Forces. In 2008, Mercer founded Global Hope, an organization with a goal of mobilizing the church to invest in and engage the Islamic world so that Muslims in the toughest of regions will have a chance to hear the gospel.

“Particularly in the Kurdish area, which is where Global Hope’s focus is, people are pursuing change,” Mercer said. “They are in a right way challenging their leaders to provide the human liberties that all of us are entitled to, and I think because of the revolutions and the demonstrations that have been going on throughout the Middle East, more and more people are being emboldened to speak for the change that they desire.”

While people she encountered in the Middle East are full of hope, at the same time they are cautious, Mercer said.

“They know that anytime change and transformation comes on the horizon, it’s like a double-edged sword — it can go towards good or it can go towards darkness. So the people are crying out for change and for liberty in a way that will bring positive change into the region.”

During her trip, a main focus was encouraging Global Hope team members as they work among the locals.

“We have English teachers on the ground that are partnering with a local English school to teach dozens of Kurds and Arabs to speak conversational English, which continues to be one of their greatest felt needs,” Mercer, a graduate of Baylor University, said.

“For so many, the ability to speak English is connected to future opportunity and personal freedom. If they speak English, then they feel like they can be contributors in a global community.

“In a spiritual sense, the people are hungry, and that connects to the human longing for freedom. As there’s this outcry for political freedom, it’s directly connected to a desire for spiritual freedom as well. There are daily opportunities to share about the love of Christ and the hope and the freedom that ultimately only He can bring,” she said.

Global Hope’s main project in the area has been the establishment of the Freedom Center, a 25,000-square-foot community center that will house a coffee shop and Internet cafe, a business center, an English language school, a sports and recreational facility and a copy center as well as a library, a family park and playground and a women’s center.

Construction of the $2 million project is expected to be complete by the end of the year, and all but $300,000 of the cost has been raised through private donors who have a passion for that part of the world, Mercer said.

“Global Hope as an organization is committed exclusively to advancing the worship of Jesus throughout the Islamic world. Distinctively, one of our focuses is going to places that other people don’t want to go,” she told BP. “We have a passion to go to the war-torn countries of the world and to love Muslims in hard places. We believe those are the kinds of places that Jesus loves to walk and show Himself powerful and strong in the hearts of people who are hurting and broken and oppressed. That’s where we primarily focus.

Photo by Esther Havens

Many women throughout the Islamic world don’t have a voice or a place where they can go to learn. Global Hope, founded by former Taliban captive Heather Mercer, is seeking to meet their needs, beginning with a pilot initiative, the Freedom Center in northern Iraq.

“Particularly, we’re seeking to be a voice on behalf of Muslim women who find themselves either in situations of abuse or violence or extreme oppression. For many, many Muslim women in these countries throughout the Islamic world, they don’t have a voice. They don’t have a place that they can go. So we seek to be a voice and an advocate for them before government leaders who can help bring about change in their circumstances,” Mercer said. In the Kurdistan capital alone, anywhere from 15 to 50 women every month set themselves on fire because they are victims of abuse, Mercer said.

“They live under a tremendous yoke of oppression. The shame and honor concept in the culture is so heavy, and there is such an expectation on these women to toe a very narrow line. For many women, it’s just too much.”

Given the obvious security threats as westerners attempt to provide a safe place for such women and others in the community, Mercer said various precautions are being taken to guard against dangerous infiltrators.

“Anytime you’re working in that part of the world, security is always a primary factor. You always have to consider security issues. Because we’re in the Kurdish area as opposed to the southern parts of Iraq, the Kurds are really allies to the American people and to the West. So this is something that they desire, this is something that they’ve invited us to do,” Mercer said.

“We have longstanding relationships with the local community and government officials, so they’re very much for this work in their city. We’re not in an area where there are many hostiles.

“But we do take security very seriously. We follow security protocols that have been set for the region and are constantly keeping tabs on that. The Freedom Center has 24/7 security, so we have guards who actually live on site and rotate out. The Freedom Center, like all public and government facilities in Kurdistan, is surrounded by a concrete wall. So you actually have to go through security to get into the facility.”

Only a handful of foreigners live in the town where the Freedom Center is being built, she said, and the project is one of a kind.

“There’s not much available. Historically it’s been kind of a big village, and it’s growing more and more into a college town. The Freedom Center is on a college campus with about 5,000 students,” she said. “This will be the hangout place for these college students, the place where they can come and study, a place where they can construct their projects and papers.”

As her attention is on northern Iraq, Mercer said Afghanistan will always be her first love.

“That whole experience 10 years ago really set the Muslim world in my heart. Out of that experience the cry of my heart became that God would allow me and people who are a part of our team to see thousands and thousands of Muslims come to know Jesus,” she said.

“When I started engaging in the Muslim world, there was only one missionary working among every 1 million Muslims on the planet. Today there are three workers among every 1 million Muslims. So the cry of my heart has been over these past years, ‘God, would you let my life mean a million Muslims around the throne of heaven.’

“That’s really what we’re living and dying for, and that’s really what the mission of Global Hope is all about, gathering Muslims around the throne of heaven from places that no one wants to go,” Mercer said. “That passion over the last 10 years has only gotten deeper. By the grace of God, this is what I and my husband and our team will spend our lives doing.”

On her recent trip, Mercer’s team members concluded they have the best life in the world.

“We can’t imagine doing anything else but living in the places where civilization began and calling back out those age-old foundations and calling Muslims back to the one true God who created them,” she said. “Especially at this time in history when the cry of the Muslim people is for freedom, for us there is no greater assignment in all the earth.

“It’s not always easy and there are challenges and there are risks, but when it’s all said and done and we know that we’ll stand before Jesus, we know that He is worthy of our lives and the Muslim people that He’s called us to are worthy of us to lay our lives down for them.”

Mercer spoke of meeting Iraqi Christians who continue to stand in the midst of tremendous odds and boldly proclaim truth even though they know it can cost them their lives.

“We have one dear brother that we were with over the last six weeks who is on the front end of his journey with Jesus, and his own father said, ‘If the community ever knows that you have decided to follow Jesus, I will kill you,’” Mercer said. “Our brother in the Lord came to us and said, ‘Even if they kill me, I have to tell people about Him.’ To be in a place where people know the reality of the gospel, just as Jesus gave His life for us, they’re willing to give their lives for Him. It’s a really wonderful assignment.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about Global Hope, visit or write to Global Hope, 1220 School St., Suite #9, Spring Hill, TN 37174.)

(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.)
5/10/2011 10:39:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

China arrests more Christians

May 10 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

BEIJING — At least 13 members of a Beijing church were arrested Sunday, May 8, in the fifth straight week of its defiance of the Chinese government, which continued to force people out of their homes in an effort to pressure the congregation.

One family learned they were being kicked out of their home at 6:40 Sunday morning, before the service even began.

The high-profile clash between the government and Shouwang Church — one of the largest unregistered illegal churches in Beijing — has led to hundreds of house arrests or detentions. More than 500 church members were placed under arrest on Easter weekend alone, prevented from leaving their houses or apartments.

ChinaAid, a U.S.-based organization that monitors religious freedom in the country, said the government, as in previous weeks, continued “rendering church members homeless by pressuring their landlords to evict them.”

Shouwang Church itself is homeless, having lost its meeting space when the government pressured the owners of a restaurant — its last home — to kick out the church. The church also has tried to rent space, only to see various landlords pressured not to cooperate.

Each week during the past month, the church has tried to worship at a public site in Zhongguancun in northwest Beijing.

Churches in China are legal only if they register with the government and join what is known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. But ChinaAid founder Bob Fu, in an interview with Baptist Press, said churches have a solid, biblical reason for refusing to register with the government.

“Fundamentally,” Fu said, “the number one reason is focused on who is the head of the church? Is it the Communist Party, the Chinese government or Jesus Christ alone? The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is nothing but a political organization with a religious uniform. All the leaders are appointed by the Communist Party, the United Front Work Department and the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and they are salaried. And many of the leaders are also Communist Party members.

“Secondly, once you join the government-sanctioned church, you lose pretty much all the freedom of evangelism. There are lots of limitations and rules that will forbid you to do any evangelism outside of the four walls of the church building. You can’t baptize anybody under 18 years old, you’re forbidden to have a Sunday School. There are fundamental differences.”

More than 160 were arrested the first week Shouwang tried to meet outdoors, about 50 were arrested the second week, approximately 40 on the third week and about 30 on the fourth week. The declining number of arrests likely is due to the government placing so many other members under house arrest, which prevents them from even leaving their homes.

Included in the latest round of arrests was a woman who is a member of another illegal church, New Tree House Church. She showed up at the outdoor site to show solidarity with her fellow believers, ChinaAid reported.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

(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.)
5/10/2011 10:36:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In Egypt, 15 die in Muslim-Christian clash

May 10 2011 by Baptist Press

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — A group of armed Muslims marched May 7 on Saint Mena Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest churches in Egypt, and the resulting violence caused at least three deaths, news media reported.

Witnesses said Muslims and Christians exchanged gunfire in Alexandria, sending people running for cover, according to a May 8 report from CNN.

Intensified violence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt over the weekend sparked an emergency meeting of the country's Cabinet, CNN reported. Spokesmen for Egypt’s Coptic Christians issued calls for international protection.

In Cairo, at least 12 people were killed and 232 others were wounded in clashes outside a church where rumors spread that a Christian woman who converted to Islam was being held against her will, CNN said. Egypt’s Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, postponed a trip abroad to hold the emergency meeting.

A small group of Coptic Christians gathered near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo May 9 to condemn the government for not doing more to protect them and called for international protection of the country’s Christian community, CNN said. Christians and Muslims debated as soldiers blocked access to the U.S. embassy.

In Cairo’s Maspiro neighborhood, bricks were thrown from rooftops on predominantly Christian protesters demonstrating in favor of national unity. Chants of “with our souls and blood we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross” were heard, according to CNN. Military riot police separated the demonstrators, some of whom were Muslim, from hostile onlookers.

Tensions between Muslims and Christians have increased after a recent U.S. government report highlighted hostility directed against the minority Copts in the predominantly Muslim society, CNN said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly.)

(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.)
5/10/2011 10:31:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Leaders can help students prepare for college

May 9 2011 by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide

The “Transitions” conference held by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) on April 14 dug deep into the tough topic of how to help young adults transition from youth group to college life. In the student ministry room of Hope Community Church in Cary, youth pastors and leaders from North Carolina congregated to learn and discuss the topic.

“It’s a hard transition from youth to college and we need to guide them,” said Angela Mahoney, minister to students at Faith Baptist Church.

Tracy Holloman, a youth leader from Parkwood Baptist in Rocky Mount, agreed and said it’s easy for young adults “to get on the wrong path. They can be way down the wrong path before they realize they’re down it.”

Merrie Johnson and Rick Trexler, the BSC’s youth and collegiate ministry directors, partnered to present their perspectives as well as research about what is happening to America’s teenagers as they leave their church community for college.

BR photo

Rick Trexler, collegiate ministry director for the Baptist State Convention, speaks to youth leaders at the “Transitions” conference.

Johnson highlighted that 70 to 80 percent of young adults drop out of church right after high school, and only around 25 percent come back, usually when they start families.

She encouraged the youth leaders to ask themselves where words like “vision,” “strategy” and “values” fit into their programs. Vision is vital for teens during their senior year of high school. They need to formulate a vision for their next four years before they arrive at college. Using Matthew 16:13-17:1, Johnson demonstrated how Jesus had an intentional relationship with His disciples that involved vision, and He would not let anything derail him from it.

“The vision carries us when the days get tough,” Johnson said.

Before high school seniors face a lot of change, they need a youth ministry that has equipped them to be Bible centered, developing as a leader, and evangelistic.

College can either give you faith or end it. Johnson emphasized the importance of youth knowing the importance of faith before leaving the nest.

In reference to 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, she added, “Vision keeps us focused and disciplined to win.” She said it’s important for leaders to ask:
  • Do they know the basics of what they believe, and can they share their faith with someone else?
  • Have we challenged them to be mentors to younger teens and build the skills that they need to stay strong?
“The generation of today really want to be challenged, and we’re often times not raising the bar,” said Brad Lee, youth pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier. “When we do they rise up to the challenge.”

Rick Trexler presented four words — Community, Depth, Service, and Connecting  — determined by LifeWay Research as necessary points to reach teens for Christ in a way that will stick with them. “If we’re going to reach this generation, it has so much to do with community,” he said.

In reference to developing depth with students, Trexler posed the question, “Are we teaching topics or are we teaching scripture … are we actually living life with them?” Finding ways for youth to connect with someone older is vital in helping them to understand and place value in the gospel, Trexler said. When youth feel more connected and are given the opportunity to serve in their community, they are able to see what that community is based on, Christ, and that they are part of it.

Leaders and pastors were given the opportunity to work together in groups based on youth group size. As they discussed and compared strategies, they were able to network with each other as well as hear about what is working and what isn’t with youth groups of similar sizes and church dynamics.

“You can change the world more through your youth than your seniors because they are the future of the world … and they are the church of the now,” said Alan Whitley, associate pastor of Parkwood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.

Many suggestions were given such as training seniors as future leaders the summer before they leave for college.

Johnson shared how her family commissioned her son Mac as a missionary to his campus before he left for college. Trexler and Johnson encouraged leaders to commission their graduating seniors to do the same, instilling in them vision and confidence that they are part of the body of Christ.

Help students transition
  • Send them a letter their first week of college to encourage them.
  • Offer to help provide them with materials in order to lead a Bible study at their university.
  • Invite your college freshman to come back for a visit and help with the current high school seniors.
  • Take high school seniors on trips to different university Baptist Student Unions so that they can meet leaders and learn about college Christian opportunities.
  • Offer to help them in the process of finding a church where their school is. They have never had to find a church before and may really benefit from the guidance.
  • Collegiate is a LifeWay publication for young adults that includes Bible study lessons college students could use. Consider getting them a subscription as their graduation present.
(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.)
5/9/2011 6:03:00 AM by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments

Hickory Grove youth serve in Pa.

May 9 2011 by Hickory Grove Baptist Church

Forty-four middle and high school students chose to spend their spring break serving others in Pennsylvania.

The Christ in Action student worship team of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte partnered with The Foundry Church in Wallingford, Pa., to provide assistance and support to the Philadelphia area.

HGBC photo

Hickory Grove Baptist Church youth from the Charlotte area offer coffee to passersby (driving and walking) during their recent spring break.

“This break will be different from normal,” said Ashley Reed, 14. “But I think it’s worth so much more to spend my time reaching out to people in need.”

Projects included serving at a food bank, a pregnancy resource center, and clothes closet; giving food to college students, providing coffee at a train station, and coordinating programs for the neighborhood children and students.

Christ in Action, based on Matthew 28:19, is a student-led worship ministry at Hickory Grove for sixth- through 12th-graders.

The ministry uses drama, dance and music to share the gospel.

The students presented the gospel at Swathmore College, Drexel University and Widener University. While some students prayerwalked around Swathmore College, others gave out coffee and informed people about their upcoming concert there. They also used the coffee ministry to inform people about The Foundry Church and opportunities to join in on the church’s Easter celebrations. The students raised money for the trip through writing letters to friends and families as well as a special coffeehouse performance.

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5/9/2011 5:59:00 AM by Hickory Grove Baptist Church | with 0 comments

Church planting focus of new Toronto partnership

May 9 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

TORONTO — The final request Dan Collison made before the North Carolina team headed home, the one thing he wanted on their minds as they left: pray like crazy.

Pushing back the spiritual darkness in southern Ontario, in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), has not been easy.

“A price has been paid. It continues to be paid,” Collison said as his eyes filled with tears.

Collison, director of Toronto church planting and the southern Ontario lead church planting catalyst for the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) and North American Mission Board (NAMB), works with staff and church planters in an area that is less than five percent evangelical. The GTA, which extends from Hamilton to Oshawa, is home to 5.5 million people.

From financial struggles and serious health issues to setbacks in church plants and times of loneliness, Collison and the team are just now starting to come out of a season marked by trials. “When there are so few people standing up you’re a target,” he said. “The enemy has the guns well-trained.”

He is praying more believers will be sent out into the harvest fields of the GTA.

BSC photo

Dan Collison, right, works with church planters in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), an area of emphasis for North Carolina Baptists through its Great Commission Partnerships at the Baptist State Convention. See gallery.

Until then, and despite the challenges, the ones who are standing have planted their feet on a firm foundation and are committed to penetrating darkness with the light of the gospel.

The task before Collison and other pastors, church planters and leaders in the GTA is great.

In the GTA, there is one church for about every 275,000 people and 40 Southern Baptist churches. About 43 percent of Canadians did not attend any religious worship service in the past year. Although Baptists statistically, at 2.4 percent, are the largest evangelical group in Canada, two-thirds of them never attend church.

Eighty-percent of pastors in the GTA are bivocational.

The Greater Toronto Area also includes the “Golden Horseshoe” of Southern Ontario, which extends beyond the GTA down to the U.S. border and includes the entire area that touches Lake Ontario.

The GTA includes communities that are completely unengaged and unreached, meaning there is no evangelical presence at all.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is beginning a Great Commission Partnership with CNBC in order to help advance the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the GTA, especially in these unengaged, unreached areas.

The partnership is focused on several specific goals, with church planting at the center of ministry for North Carolina Baptist churches that partner in Toronto. Goals include North Carolina Baptist churches assisting in the planting of 40 churches in Southern Ontario and 10 biker churches throughout Canada by 2021.

An emphasis will also be on strategic, church-to-church partnerships.

“We are looking for churches in North Carolina to partner long-term in Toronto three, five or more years. Ideally, for the long haul, until a church is not just planted but reproduces itself,” said Peter Blackaby, mobilization director with NAMB for the Canada region.

As North Carolina Baptists work together to accomplish these goals, they are also helping the CNBC work toward its goal of planting 250 churches across southern Ontario by 2020.

“The Canadian National Baptist Convention has prayerfully sought to understand how to best impact this area of the world with the gospel. I commend their leaders for praying for a bold vision and for their commitment to doing all they can to see that it is accomplished,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer.

“I am grateful for the opportunity our convention has to serve in Toronto by planting churches and helping strengthen existing churches. I pray that the work of North Carolina Baptists, and other strategic partners, will help bring forth much fruit in the unreached and engaged areas of Toronto for the glory of God.”

Challenges in Canada
Canada has a “complete absence of a Christian subculture,” Blackaby said.

“On a typical work day, conversation about church, let alone Christ, you would not hear it. You would not expect to hear it. There’s not a natural predisposition within the general population that church is even a good thing.”

Blackaby said that in many areas witnessing and church planting begins not just with “breaking up the ground” but removing rocks, or those preconceived ideas about God and church, from under the ground. “You’re starting at a much earlier stage than you probably would in North Carolina.”

Many people in the targeted partnership area are two, even three, generations removed from any kind of real Christian experience.

They have no connection with the Bible, even the most familiar Bible stories, and are “disillusioned and disenfranchised,” Collison said. They have walked away completely from Christianity and the church. The gospel “needs to be lived out for them before it can be communicated verbally. It can be a fairly slow process of building relationships of trust and relationships of confidence,” Collison said.

How you can help
A goal of the partnership is to see North Carolina Baptist churches involved in mission efforts in Toronto that go beyond a one-time trip to Toronto. Churches are encouraged to commit to serving in one area or alongside one church planter for an extended period of time in order to build relationships and truly understand, and be involved in, the planter’s strategy for reaching the community.

North Carolina Baptist churches can join the work in Toronto by becoming a sending or supporting church. Sending churches are churches that agree to plant a church, or to lead a network of supporting churches in partnering with a specific church plant in Toronto.

These churches are the liaison working with a church in Toronto to coordinate sending mission teams that respond to the needs of the church plant. The sending church commits to working with that church plant until the new church is sustaining on its own.

In unreached areas supporting churches may help out with community events and find ways to serve the community in order to “re-earn the right to be seen as a community player,” Collison said. Church planters are not welcomed in all communities, so mission teams are needed to serve and help these planters and churches earn a right to even be in the community.

“People are looking for Christianity to have a real, tangible, experiential difference from the rest of the world — not something that’s seen in word only but that’s seen in power,” Collison said.

Contact Michael Sowers at or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654. More coverage:

(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
Toronto planters on mission to change city
5/9/2011 5:48:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

50K participate in 6-hour ‘Secret Church’

May 9 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Good Friday, more than 50,000 people across the world participated in Secret Church, six intensive hours of biblical teaching and prayer for the persecuted church led by author and pastor David Platt of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham.

The April 22 event — held at the church but simulcast into 42 states (including North Carolina) and 11 countries — was designed to call the church to a greater awareness of biblical fidelity and to build unity with the persecuted church worldwide.

While thousands gathered at the church, more than 50,000 people from 1,300 churches and small groups participated via simulcast. It was the 10th Secret Church event but the first one simulcast.

It was simulcast by LifeWay Christian Resources and Disciple-Making International (DMI), a nonprofit, Christian-equipping organization founded by Platt. Secret Church was born from Platt’s experiences teaching in underground house churches throughout Asia. There, Platt experienced how Christians met in secret for fear of persecution. This awareness sparked a desire to transplant the urgency of sound gospel proclamation to his own church.

“People are hungry for the Word,” Platt said. “There’s really nothing special or creative about it. It’s just the study of the Word and then prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters. The Word itself does the work.”

Within an hour of starting, Secret Church became a “trending topic” on twitter, meaning that it is one of the most mentioned or tweeted about events/topics on twitter.

During the three 10-minute breaks, LifeWay showed pictures that people were sending in from around the world of their group watching the simulcast. Churches and small groups watched from places such as Cambodia, India, Thessalonica, Greece, Guatemala, Brazil and all across the United States.

There had been nine prior Secret Church events, but after the first meeting The Church at Brook Hills was forced to start a reservation system due to the sell-out capacity. Its on-site popularity led to the idea of a simulcast.

Watch or listen to previous Secret Church events at

(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.)
5/9/2011 5:43:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Americans observe National Day of Prayer

May 6 2011 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — Americans gathered May 5 in tens of thousands of locations in observance of the National Day of Prayer for the first time since a federal appeals court upheld the occasion.

Only three weeks before, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago had unanimously reversed a 2010 opinion that invalidated the National Day of Prayer. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Wisconsin had ruled in April 2010 that a law establishing a day for the observance violated the First Amendment, but she permitted the event to proceed while her decision was appealed.

Crabb’s ruling, which was overturned April 14 this year, had threatened a tradition as old as the American republic and a specific observance that was recognized for the 60th time this year. Congress passed a resolution in 1952 calling on the president to establish the National Day of Prayer as an annual event. President Truman initiated the observance the same year, and presidents since have recognized it with proclamations. In 1988, Congress amended the law to set the first Thursday of May for its observance.

President Obama issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation April 29, inviting Americans, “as their own faith or conscience directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and I ask all people of faith to join me in asking God for guidance, mercy, and protection for our Nation.”

In his proclamation, the president encouraged Americans to express gratitude for their freedom and to pray for the members of the U.S. military and their families, as well as for law enforcement and emergency response personnel, and people in this country and overseas impacted recently by natural disasters.

The White House issued Obama’s proclamation a day after he gave the order for a secret mission that was completed early May 2 in Pakistan when an elite military unit found and killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The National Day of Prayer was observed in about 40,000 locations in 2010, according to the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force. As in many other years, the lead observance was in a House of Representatives office building in Washington, D.C.

This year’s theme, as established by the NDP Task Force, was “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which was based on Psalm 91:2: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Joni Eareckson Tada, a well-known evangelical Christian whose books have inspired many since a diving accident in 1967 left her a quadriplegic, served as honorary chairman for the NDP Task Force. She gave the keynote speech at the Capitol Hill service.

In a national prayer she wrote for this year’s observance, Eareckson Tada said:

“Almighty God, you are our Mighty Fortress, our refuge and the God in whom we place our trust. As our nation faces great distress and uncertainty, we ask your Holy Spirit to fall afresh upon your people — convict us of sin and inflame within us a passion to pray for our land and its people. Grant the leaders of our country an awareness of their desperate need of wisdom and salvation in You until sin becomes a reproach to all and righteousness exalts this nation.

“Protect and defend us against our enemies and may the cause of Christ always prevail in our schools, courts, homes, and churches. Lord God, send a spirit of revival and may it begin in our own hearts.

“Remember America, we pray. Remember the foundations on which this country was built. Remember the prayers of our nation’s fathers and mothers, and do not forget us in our time of need.

“In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.”

The NDP Task Force is a privately funded organization that says it encourages participation in the observance by people of all faiths but the events it organizes represent “a Judeo-Christian expression.”

Obama’s National Day of Prayer proclamation may be accessed online here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

(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.)
5/6/2011 8:45:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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