November 2008

FBC Charlotte feeds 5,000 with Thanksgiving boxes

November 26 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

One thousand poor families in Charlotte came for a box of food and hundreds found new life in Christ during a “Feeding 5,000” outreach by First Baptist Church Nov. 25.

Church families on separate weeks brought beans, rice and yams enough in portions to feed five people. The church collected about 1,000 such portions of each, and then used gifts to buy 1,000 canned hams.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Behind table, from left, David Crosby, Burges Burrows and his son, Pearce, Jenna Porter and her mother Janet Porter distribute cookies and bread for First Baptist Church, Charlotte.

First Baptist Pastor Mark Harris wanted members of Charlotte’s downtown Baptist church, which already is actively engaged with a local school and apartment complexes, to participate directly in an outreach to provide a Thanksgiving meal for 5,000 people, and not just write a check.

The church advertised its giveaway with “no idea” what the response would be, Harris said. They notified the schools and apartment complexes where they minister and word of mouth quickly informed others. Jessica Barnwell said a friend told her. She was sitting next to her nephew, whom she called about the food.

Because no one had a clue about turnout, a group of businessmen with whom Harris has a Bible study committed to buy up to 500 family meal packs at a local restaurant if the church ran out of food boxes.

On distribution day the first guests arrived at 6:30 a.m. and eventually the ground floor of First Baptist’s 1,600 seat sanctuary was packed and humming with anticipation. Local police monitored traffic.

A worship service preceded the food distribution and Betty Cherry, a woman who works with the poor in Chicago, shared her dramatic testimony of how the persistence of a “hillbilly from Kentucky” who kept knocking on her door softened her resistance to church and led eventually to her coming to Christ.

Then Harris preached from John 3:16 on the “incredible, indisputable and indispensible love of God.” He offered an invitation at the end to which probably 200 responded. They were ushered to another room for counseling

During distribution of the food boxes in the foyer and outside young people served together with their parents to put food directly into the hands of appreciative citizens.

Janet Porter who brought her elementary school aged daughter Jenna with her to serve, choked up when explaining that she and Jenna had discussed all week about coming to help other people, “who might need encouragement.”

Encouragement is just what brought Keith Murray and his son, Christian, to church that morning. Living on the street the past three weeks, Murray finally had landed a sleeping place on the floor of a friend. He was encouraged by the message of God’s love, he said. He was more encouraged when Christian went forward to receive Christ.

Bordering businesses loaned parking spaces and Travel Lynx loaned a luxury bus and driver to pick up people at the apartments so they could come get their food and encouragement.

Harris said the church “didn’t know what to expect,” but the results were “what we hoped for.”
Almost 200 church members volunteered in the middle of the work week to put food into the hands of the hungry.

Bob Lowman, director of missions for Metrolina Baptist Association and a member at First Baptist, said other churches had called First Baptist offering their help. That level of interest, Lowman said, indicates that a citywide event next year involving all the churches and as many as 100,000 food boxes merits consideration.

11/26/2008 8:18:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments



BCH drops 19 positions, lays off 12

November 26 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Baptist Children’s Homes laid off 12 employees Nov. 20 and eliminated seven other positions in response to budget shortfalls.

President Michael C. Blackwell said BCH also will close Noel Home in Lenoir and transfer those residents to Mills Home in Thomasville. A partnership with Haywood County to staff an emergency cottage is winding down by mutual agreement.

“Decreases in donations from individuals, fewer Cooperative Program dollars and corporate grants, massive losses from investments, enormous decreases in payment for services from public agencies and minimal income from private placements,” led to the budget crunch, Blackwell said.

Blackwell reported that no child in care was displaced from care.

BCH’s $19 million budget anticipates $818,000 in investment revenue, a target likely to fall short in a dropping market. The need to utilize reserves diminishes earning power of those reserves in the future.

BCH is North Carolina Baptists’ statewide ministry to children and families. With four residential campuses and service sites in 10 other communities across the state, BCH served 1,465 children in residential care, developmentally disabled adult ministry and in daycare and after school services.

BCH’s recent announcement that it would develop a girl’s wilderness camp remains on track, funded by gifts already in hand specifically for that purpose. A three-year commitment for operating funds already is in place, as well.

BCH has approximately 300 staff members. All service areas were affected by the layoffs, Blackwell said.

11/26/2008 8:13:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments



‘In Bogota, where I feel at ease’

November 26 2008 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — It’s a safe place where indigenous students can get help with class work, eat a hot meal and learn about Christ.

Southern Baptist missionaries Fernando and Brenda Larzabal created the student center in Bogotá to attract the growing number of indigenous students attending Colombia’s National University. Government scholarships provide students’ tuition but little else. That’s where the Larzabals recognized a need — and a doorway for sharing the gospel.

“Some students are very leery of us,” Brenda says. “They’ve been around long enough to know that we are evangelical. But when their tooth hurts or they’re real hungry or they’re failing something, they come. Initially we just help them, love them and serve them. That’s when the barriers break down.”

Hugo and Diana Solorza are Colombian missionaries who partner with the Larzabals to run the center. Hugo’s heart for the project comes from personal experience. Raised in an indigenous community for most of his childhood, he knows exactly what many of these students are going through.

“During my time at the university I often lived the way they do — feeling scorned, without money, sometimes going hungry, not being prepared academically,” Hugo says. “What we try to do here is provide for those needs.”

Located in a renovated house in a Bogotá suburb, the Student Center includes a computer lab, study rooms, exercise equipment and even a small dental clinic. Services like Internet access or tutoring are available for a small fee — Bible studies are free.

“We never push our beliefs,” Fernando says. “We don’t hide them, but we don’t force them. And when friendship is inevitably established, soon the time comes when the students want to know what is different about us.”

The Solorzas have seen 25 students come to the Lord through the student center since it began four years ago. Magaly*, 21, is one of 10 students who have already been baptized. In her fifth semester of a business administration major, Magaly is the first woman from the Apakta* tribe to go to college.

“This is one of the very few places in Bogotá where I feel at ease,” Magaly says. “Here, nobody looks at me weird. There are a lot of other indigenous students and it’s really cool to be able to share stories about our homes.”

Brenda points out that one of the student center’s greatest strengths is its potential to carry the gospel far beyond the classroom.

“Because they’re being educated at the university, these students become leaders in their community,” she says. “If they can be won to the Lord while they’re here, they can go back and share the gospel in places we don’t have access to.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE — * denotes that the names have been changed. This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions, Nov. 30-Dec. 7, focuses on missionaries who serve in South America as well as churches partnering with them, exemplifying the global outreach supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This year’s theme is “GO TELL the story of Jesus”; the national offering goal is $170 million. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board. To learn more about reaching South America for Christ, go to samregion.org. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can be made at www.imb.org/offering to support the International Mission Board’s more than 5,300 missionaries worldwide, including Fernando and Brenda Larzabal in Colombia.)

Click Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for more resources, stories and photos.

Other stories from Colombia:
Day 1 — Lottie Moon prayer guide
Indigenous tribes transformed by gospel
Nurturing a missionary force in Colombia
Student center in Bogotá impacts lives for Christ

11/26/2008 2:11:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GPS wandering with no direct funding

November 24 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

A national evangelism strategy still sputtering for lack of funding will be “ancillary” to the Baptist State Convention’s (BSC) current evangelistic strategy, says North Carolina’s evangelism leader.

A bare bones outline for “God’s Plan for Sharing” (GPS) was announced in June at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting by the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) President Geoff Hammond. That GPS initiative is the focus of an analysis in the Nov. 20 Georgia Christian Index, which criticizes NAMB for failing to adequately fund the effort.

Don McCutcheon, executive leader for the BSC’s evangelization group, said the BSC wants to to assist churches to develop an effective and individualized strategy to consistently make and win disciples.

“The major thrust to accomplish this is the Intentional Evangelistic Church Strategy (IECS) seminars of evangelistic leadership, evangelistic prayer, assimilation, event evangelism and personal evangelism,” McCutcheon said in an e-mail response to questions about GPS. “GPS would be ancillary to the IECS, but would provide through the 2010 emphasis a focused opportunity to impact our state.”

McCutcheon said GPS aspects of praying, sowing, engaging and harvesting are general enough to apply to the churches in North Carolina.

“The IECS seminars train pastors, staff and laity in various avenues to effectively implement each of those aspects to their own culture and context,” he said.

NAMB president Geoff Hammond told state executives and evangelism directors that NAMB would provide media kits and DVDs, but each state would have to buy advertising to support GPS, according to the Index report. Hammond told the Index there would be a “targeted media campaign” but there is no line item in the NAMB budget for GPS, according to the Index story.

McCutcheon said there are no plans at this time for the BSC to purchase media buys.

The advantage of a national strategy and NAMB involvement such as in the effective “Here’s Hope” campaign of the 1990s is to raise broad awareness that enhances local efforts. Without commitment by NAMB to drive an awareness effort and to supplement its cost, a “national strategy” could be reduced simply to the sum of disparate state and local efforts.

The Index cited unnamed state evangelism directors as saying they couldn’t imagine attempting GPS without major media support.

Baptist Press issued a report Nov. 21 based on a transcript of the interview Index editors conducted with Hammond. In it, Hammond said the mission board is charting a different media strategy for GPS than has been used in previous national campaigns. In the new initiative, the board had decided to make targeted media purchases in specific locations, rather than a bulk purchase of advertising to blanket North America.

"Every market is different.... What would work in New York may not work out in Idaho," Hammond said, according to the transcript. "We're trying to do it very scientifically with some research and objective facts that we don't just say this is what every American's thinking about in every neighborhood about the gospel."

The board also is studying a broader variety of media that might be used, said Brandon Pickett, communications team leader for the North American Mission Board.

"We are getting research from the top 200 markets," Pickett said, according to the interview transcript. "We're finding that in some areas television would be the best way to do it. Some it's actually putting an ad on Google because it's more social media ... or Facebook.”

"I mean some pioneer areas it's actually putting things at the Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart is the place that everybody goes but there's not a whole lot of television coverage," Pickett said. "So we're looking at those markets to find out which would be the best media campaign and that's why we're calling it targeted media campaign based on the region."

Hammond said in the interview that the entity's budget doesn't have a line item for the national evangelism initiative because "this is so much bigger than one line item."

The Index analysis asks if an “emphasis” with no budget line of its own, can be considered an emphasis.

11/24/2008 8:56:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



John 3:16 Conference examines Calvinism

November 24 2008 by Baptist Press

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — About 1,000 attended a John 3:16 Conference Nov. 6-7 at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., an event described as a biblical assessment of five-point Calvinism.

The conference, at the church of Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, was sponsored by New Orleans, Southwestern and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminaries and Liberty and Luther Rice seminaries and by Jerry Vines Ministries.

TULIP is an acronym for the five points of Calvinism — Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints. Speakers addressed each point.

Vines and other speakers emphasized that the event was intended to address theological issues and provide information rather than attack Calvinists. "I've never felt that disagreeing was attacking," Vines said, adding that he has many friends with different views.

Vines spoke on John 3:16, a verse he described as the gospel in a nutshell. The verse indicates God's love is global, sacrificial, personal and eternal, he said.

Paige Patterson, Southwestern Seminary president, addressed the issue of total depravity from Romans, saying that depravity means no one is right with God. Any good deed done is tainted with sinfulness, and there is no fear of God or ultimate peace in a person's heart. All of mankind fell in Adam and are affected by his sin.

"Does that mean we are born guilty before God?" Patterson asked. "I do not think that can be demonstrated from scripture. We are born with a 'sin sickness,' a disease that makes it certain that we will sin and rebel against God."

The Bible says people are condemned for their own sins, he said.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, spoke about unconditional election. Land said election is consistent with the free agency of man; the question is how election is defined.

Commenting on 1Tim. 2:3-4, "... God our savior, who will have all men to be saved," Land said the Greek word for "will" is an earnest desire.

Reacting to Reformed commentaries that say "all" can't really mean "all men" because if God willed something it would have to happen, Land said, "I believe in a God who is so sovereign and so omniscient that He can break out of Calvin's box ... and He can choose to limit Himself and He can convict us and He can seek to bring us to conviction ... but He will not force us."

David Allen, dean of Southwestern Seminary's School of Theology, challenged limited atonement quoting only Calvinist authors because "the best arguments against limited atonement come from Calvinist writers."

Allen named a long list of Calvinists, including John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, who did not hold to limited atonement. Martin Luther and the early English reformers held to universal atonement, which means Christ bore the punishment due for the sins of all humanity.

In his concluding remarks, Allen expressed concern about the effect of five-point Calvinism on preaching and evangelism. "Anything that makes the preacher hesitant to make the bold proclamation (of the gospel) to all people is wrong," he said.

"Calvinism is not the gospel," he said. "Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward five-point Calvinism, such a move would be away from, and not toward, the gospel."
Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Seminary, spoke about irresistible grace.

"Salvation is tied in some measure to our response," he said, citing several biblical examples of what he said were people resisting God. For example, in Acts 7:51 the Jewish men who stoned Stephen were said to be "always resisting the Holy Spirit."

Lemke said that while Calvinists don't deny people can resist the Holy Spirit in some situations, they believe the effectual call is irresistible.

Ken Keathley, dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Seminary, covered the fifth point, perseverance of the saints. Ironically, he said, many Arminians and Calvinists arrive at basically the same answer: Assurance is based on the evidence of sanctification in one's life.

While the Reformers taught that assurance is the essence of faith, the doctrines of the hidden will of God, limited atonement and temporary faith undermine this assurance, he said. Some argue that final justification is obtained by perseverance.

"Doesn't this come close to a works-based salvation?" he asked.

Keathley said the only basis for assurance is the objective work of Christ, and that saving faith perseveres or remains until the day when it gives way to sight.

"Any model that begins with Christ but ends with man is doomed to failure," he said.

11/24/2008 8:53:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments



‘Reformed’ in church name shows Calvinism’s growth

November 24 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Calvinism is named for John Calvin, seen here in an engraving from an original oil painting in the University Library of Geneva. This is considered Calvin's best likeness.

While most Baptist churches are named chronologically, such as “First” or geographically, such as “Hillcrest,” the name of a new church in Yanceyville reflects a growing influence of Calvinism among Southern Baptists.

Covenant Reformed Baptist Church is one of only six North Carolina Baptist churches with “covenant” in its name, and the only one that includes “reformed,” according to the Baptist State Convention online church directory.

Pastor John Carpenter said that while Covenant Reformed Baptist Church’s name might turn some people off, it has been a “net profit.”

The population as a whole doesn’t seem put off by the word “reformed,” he said.

Carpenter said he doesn’t get many questions about the name and clearly explains the church’s theological position in a new members class.

“Calvinist and Reformed are pretty much synonymous,” he said. “For all practical purposes, they’re the same.”

Calvinism has gained popularity among Southern Baptists in recent years. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is among the most vocal national Baptist proponents of Calvinism.

Calvinists generally hold to most or all of five positions known by the acrostic TULIP — Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints. Surveys show that seminarians preparing for ministry in Southern Baptist churches hold to these five points of Calvinism at a significantly higher rate than do pastors currently leading churches.

That dichotomy implies that to avoid potential conflicts, churches searching in the near future for pastors from among recent seminary graduates will need to be sure the potential pastor’s perspective on “reformed theology” aligns with theirs.

Carpenter said a lot of Baptist Calvinists don’t use the word “reformed” but say instead the “doctrines of grace.”

Covenant, which started in May 2008, meets in the Caswell County Parks and Recreation Center in Yanceyville. A number of beliefs and practices distinguish the church from a traditional Baptist church, Carpenter said.

Carpenter teaches that the purpose of the church is not evangelism but to glorify God. “One primary way we do that is evangelism,” he said.

Carpenter said churches that become consumed with evangelism often try too hard to appeal to people and end up trying to appease them.

“It’s no less a commitment to evangelism,” he said. “In a way it’s a higher commitment to discipleship.”

Carpenter said he doesn’t believe in using music as a psychological tool to change the mood and coerce people.

“It forces a decision, then insures them they’re saved and they may not be,” he said.

Carpenter said he doesn’t believe churches can make salvation happen by manipulating people.

“It’s God who makes conversion possible,” he said.

Covenant does not have an altar call at the end of worship. Instead there is a time of silence and prayer. Carpenter tells people that he’s available after the service if they need to talk.

Some Reformed churches might have an altar call, but it’s not high pressure, Carpenter said. Church leaders believe that if somebody is going to be saved, it’s up to Holy Spirit.

“Putting pressure on people is not necessary,” he said. “If God is going to save them, He will do it.”

Carpenter said he believes in evangelism and does not describe himself as a “hyper-Calvinist.”

“Hyper-Calvinism” is discounted by many Southern Baptist Calvinists because it sticks so closely to the doctrines of “limited atonement” and foreordination that evangelism is unnecessary.

“What we don’t need is the pressure and gimmicks,” he said.

Carpenter said worship should not be an ongoing evangelism rally. Instead the church should reach out after reaching up to God.

Covenant strives for God-centered worship, Carpenter said. The church uses hymns and praise songs as long as they are focused on God.

“The main criteria is to glorify God, not to just appeal to people,” Carpenter said.

Covenant has elders who work with the pastor. The church does not have women elders, but since deacons are servants instead of rulers, there’s no reason women cannot serve as deacons, Carpenter said.

Covenant also practices church discipline as outlined in Matthew 18, Carpenter said.

If someone doesn’t attend for a long time, church discipline calls for the person to be removed as a member. Carpenter said Baptists once believed in the integrity of church membership with churches excommunicating up to two percent of their members a year.

Carpenter said his beliefs are pretty much in line with Mark Dever, who preached the convention sermon at the Baptist State Convention annual meeting.

“It’s not as if we’re a fringe group,” he said. “We’re not trying to get in. We’re already in.”

11/24/2008 8:26:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 2 comments



Poll Shows Americans help others during holidays

November 24 2008 by

New York – A poll conducted by Guideposts.com shows that Americans are very involved in helping others during Thanksgiving.

The top response to the question, "How will you be spending Thanksgiving?" was the 39 percent who said: "Traveling to see relatives and friends."

Perhaps even more indicative of the state of the economy, the No. 2 answer was that 24 percent said they would "Be serving food at a shelter."

Other responses were: 14 percent "Hosting family and friends," 12 percent "Attending church services" and 11 percent answered "Not celebrating."

The poll was conducted between 11/17 and 11/22 among over 3400 online respondents.

"When we see these results, showing that nearly 1 in 4 of those who took the poll are serving in shelters, it underscores the fact that many Americans take seriously the meaning and values surrounding Thanksgiving -- that of gratitude and thankfulness expressed by helping and sharing with others," according to Anne Simpkinson, online managing editor at Guideposts. "Guideposts.com. has strong, inspirational content and stories about real people whose faith-filled lives and experiences are an inspiration to all of us this holiday."

Two of the Thanksgiving stories featured on the site highlight the strong commitment people have to helping others during the holidays. The first is "Mr. Thanksgiving" about a Moline, Illinois grocer, Bob Vogelbaugh, whose first little potluck dinner for people in need over 38 years ago has grown to serving thousands of free turkey dinners each year.

Another, "Trouble at the Melrose Diner" by Richard Kubach, is about a very special south Philadelphia, PA neighborhood institution that was threatened by a Thanksgiving Day water main flood and about who showed up to help.

11/24/2008 6:19:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Multicultural London: ‘capital of the world’

November 21 2008 by By Erich Bridges, IMB Global Correspondent

LONDON (BP) — On a crisp October day the crowd in London’s Trafalgar Square includes people of nearly every conceivable appearance and background: turban-wearing Sikhs, Indians, Chinese, Africans, Rastafarians, hipsters, bikers.  They dance or tap their toes to the beat of performances by “the Jewish Elvis” and “K-Groove,” a Klezmer-reggae-jazz band.

IMB photo

Many Muslims live in the Marble Arch area of London. But they represent only a fraction of the myriad cultures and religions in the city, where more than 300 languages are spoken.

Multicultural bliss, at least for an afternoon.

Welcome to the new London, a British capital that is no longer really an English city; it is a world city. Set to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, it now proclaims itself the “capital of the world.”

With a population of about 14 million in the greater metro region London vies with Paris as the largest city in Western Europe. Much of the world’s high-powered finance flows through its gleaming office towers and great investment houses.

Population numbers and dollars, however, don’t tell the true tale of London’s global reach. Guardian newspaper reporter Leo Benedictus writes that “the great experiment of multiculturalism will triumph or fail here...”

“Altogether, more than 300 languages are spoken by the people of London, and the city has at least 50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000 or more,” he said.

Since its earliest beginnings as Londinium, a Roman garrison town built in 43 A.D., this great metropolis of merchants and empire builders has attracted pilgrims, missionaries, immigrants, traders, colonial subjects and invaders. But the human waves that have washed over London in the last generation or two have brought the greatest cultural change since the Normans invaded in 1066.
 
A few glimpses:

— Emerge from the London Underground train station in Southall and you’ll think you’re in New Delhi. Temples, mosques, south Asian restaurants and markets dominate the area. On some streets there isn’t a white face in sight.

— The largest Sikh and Hindu temples outside India are in London. Hundreds of mosques, large and small, serve as many as 1.3 million Muslim Londoners.

— An estimated 600,000 Poles have flooded London over the last several years, the largest of successive waves of Russians, Albanians, Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans streaming into the city.

Some of London’s ethnic communities are insulated, even isolated. Others freely mix and mingle with white Britons and other immigrants. Their children mingle even more, creating new cultural variations.

“When we first arrived in London, you’d see teens from many different nations walking home from school and hanging out — all calling themselves ‘Brits’ — not English, but ‘Brits,’“ says missionary Patrick Sims*, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s city strategist and team leader for London. “Now there’s been a move to forming gangs. Drugs and crime are on the rise. We can’t tackle that issue on a large scale, but we can come alongside teenagers and share the hope of Christ.”

According to the International Mission Board’s 2008 Annual Statistical Report, London is one of 172 urban centers around the world where missionaries such as Sims are working to start churches. Much of the work involves strategic partnerships between Southern Baptist missionaries, local Baptists and other Great Commission Christians. In 2007 alone, such collaboration allowed missionaries to begin church-planting strategies in nine previously unengaged cities.

The urban emphasis is critical, because more than 80 percent of the 172 urban centers engaged by Southern Baptists and their partners are considered to be unreached (less than 2 percent evangelical).

“We want to create forms of church that are relevant, reproducible and multiplying for every people segment of London — and beyond,” Sims explains. “We say ‘and beyond’ because I’m trying to start a rumor that London is the final frontier. The whole world is here, and we can openly share the Gospel. London has five airports, one of which is the largest in the world, sending and bringing people to and from every corner of the globe.”

REACHING THE CITY OF THE FUTURE

The truth is more complicated and falls somewhere between the rosy and alarmist views.

“This city has truth, but it has a lot of lies, too,” observes Serena Bailey*, an IMB missionary on Sims’ London mission team. “People are really, really confused. There’s no unity.”

The siege mentality even seeps into London’s churches, where Christians already contend with one of the most secularized societies in Europe. While 58 percent of  Londoners claimed to be “Christian” in the 2001 census, here’s a more realistic estimate: 80 percent have had no personal encounter with Jesus Christ, and only a small minority follow Him as Lord.

The reality is that London has changed forever. In a globalized world, former Mayor Ken Livingstone observed, “This city is the future” — for better or worse. You can embrace it, deny it, fear it or fight it.

Sims and his wife Sarah* embraces it. They are reaching into communities by making friends and meeting needs through teaching English and other services.  They’re working with local Christian partners such as Boyd Williams, a visionary Baptist pastor in Southall, and Mark Melluish, the evangelistic Anglican vicar of St. Paul’s Church in Ealing, west London.

Melluish, in his mid-40s, belies the stereotype of the doddering vicar left behind by changing times. He grew up a typically unchurched modern Brit, but when he gave his life to Jesus as a young man, he wanted to make a difference. Arriving at St. Paul’s 15 years ago, he found a dying parish of 60 people — all over age 60.  Today the church attracts more than 1,000 regulars, including hundreds of children, by proclaiming and demonstrating the saving love of Christ.

How did they do it in a jumbled-up community of middle-class Anglo workers, jobless poor people, Poles, Hindus and Muslims?

“We meet people of all different backgrounds and faiths,” Melluish says. “Not only do we minister to people in poverty, we’re able to reach them with a language school. We do job fairs. We help put people in jobs. We go into the schools. We even bought the coffee shop down on the high street so we’ve got a ‘front door’ to ensure people have got a way in. And it works.

“(London) is a diverse community. The church has to see that and adapt to it, not be fearful of it. We’ve got to be all things to all people so that we might share Christ. How can we reach them? By being absolutely outrageous with the love of God, we can cross all boundaries. Get out on the street and do stuff.”

That’s the attitude that will reach the new London and — as new disciples of all creeds and colors there are won to Christ — the world. One missionary even likens the city to heaven, where, as the Book of Revelation says, members of all tribes and tongues will one day worship before the throne of God.

“They’re gonna be there,” she says. “So living in London is a chance to practice heaven on earth.”

(EDITOR'S NOTE — * denotes names that have been changed. You can view a multimedia presentation about London at this web site.)

11/21/2008 9:20:00 AM by By Erich Bridges, IMB Global Correspondent | with 0 comments



True Love Waits gets more Africa funding

November 20 2008 by Don Beehler, Baptist Press

GREENVILLE, S.C. — After successfully launching True Love Waits in six African countries a little over a year ago, the ministry has received an additional $350,000 to expand its abstinence-until-marriage message into two more countries. The funding was made available through LifeWay Christian Resources' A Defining Moment major-donor campaign.

An evaluation is underway to determine the two countries best suited for the expansion, said Jimmy Hester, cofounder of True Love Waits.

Sharon Pumpelly, lead consultant for True Love Waits International, said the message of waiting has made a "huge difference" because countries that promote condoms as the primary way to combat AIDS are not seeing decreases in their rates.

"(Young people) are making life and death choices," she said at the third annual A Defining Moment meeting, held in October in Greenville, S.C.

Pumpelly gave progress reports for each of the six African countries where True Love Waits has initiated its first phase of new work: South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

From August 2007 to August 2008, nearly 27,000 abstinence commitments were recorded, and more than 9,000 youth committed their lives to Christ. Because reporting is challenging, organizers believe that many other young people have made commitments.

Pumpelly cited statistics illustrating the scope of the AIDS problem: Worldwide, there are an estimated 33.2 million children and adults living with HIV, with more than 6,800 new infections occurring every day. More than 96 percent are in low- and middle-income countries, and about 1,200 of the new infections occur in children under 15 years of age.

Pumpelly also announced that True Love Waits International has created True Love Stays commitment cards for married couples to emphasize the importance of faithfulness in marriage.

True Love Waits' goal in Africa is to get a quarter of the youth in each of the six countries to make a sincere commitment to abstinence until marriage and to a lifetime of biblical purity. The ministry also plans to train teams in every district and major city to make True Love Waits presentations and follow up with youth who have made commitments.

Since its introduction in Uganda 14 years ago, True Love Waits has been a catalyst for bringing people together to address the AIDS problem and spread the message of biblical purity to schools, youth groups, communities and other places. By creating positive peer pressure through True Love Waits, the ministry hopes to see a reduction in the HIV rate in five years in each targeted country.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Beehler is a freelance writer in Franklin, Tenn.)

11/20/2008 8:49:00 AM by Don Beehler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



China relents: Pregnant woman won't undergo forced abortion

November 20 2008 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — A woman who is six months pregnant will not undergo a forced abortion, despite being held for nearly a week in a Chinese hospital under threat of the procedure.

Arzigul Tursun, a mother of two, was released Nov. 18 from a hospital in Xinjiang, the vast northwest region of the world's most populous country, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). "I am all right and I am at home now," Tursun told RFA shortly after her release.

The head of the local population control committee said Tursun "wasn't in good enough health to have an abortion."

As a Uyghur Muslim, Tursun is permitted to have two children under China's coercive "one-child" program. Government officials, however, had decided to enforce the population-control policy on her third child. She is 26 weeks into her pregnancy.

Tursun's deliverance from a coercive abortion came after two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the American ambassador to Beijing, urged Chinese officials to reverse course.

Republican Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania made appeals on Tursun's behalf, and Smith sent a direct request to Zhou Wenzhong, China's ambassador to the United States. Smith also urged Clark Randt, U.S. ambassador to China, to intervene. Randt talked to a Chinese foreign ministry official, according to Smith's office, RFA reported.

Tursun's release "is great news for both her family and women throughout China," Smith and Pitts said in a joint written statement. "The decision to spare Arzigul and her child from the tragedy of forced abortion is, we hope, a sign that more women in China will be saved from this grave human rights abuse."

Of the local population-control official's comment that Tursun was not well enough for an abortion, Smith and Pitts said, "We know that abortion threatens women's physical and mental health, and we further recognize that abortion always destroys the life of a child. There are always two victims in every abortion, and we are relieved that this abortion did not take place."

China's population-control policy, which has been in place since 1979, has been marked by forced abortions and sterilizations. Infanticide, especially of females, also has been reported. In addition to abortions and sterilizations, penalties for violations of the policy have included fines, arrests and the destruction of homes.

China's policy generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic group, and other minorities living in rural areas are allowed three children, but those from cities are permitted only two, according to Xinhua, China's official news agency, RFA reported. Tursun is from a rural area, but her husband, Nurmemet Tohtasin, is from a city.

After it appeared an abortion would be forced upon her, Tursun left the family's home in the village of Bulaq in Dadamtu township but returned under pressure, according to RFA. She was taken to Yining's Water Gate Hospital Nov. 11 and held there under guard. She escaped Nov. 16, but police recaptured her the next day at a friend's home. She was taken to another hospital, Women and Children's Welfare Hospital in the Ili district.

China's coercive program has helped produce a gender imbalance in the world's most populous country, with many girls being aborted in order to enable a male baby to be born later. China had 120 males born for every 100 females in 2005, according to the U.N. Population Fund, which U.S. researchers report has assisted the government's population-control program.

11/20/2008 8:47:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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