November 2009

Metrolina feeds multitudes at Thanksgiving

November 20 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Inspired by a similar project by First Baptist Church, Charlotte, last year, 22 churches in Metrolina Baptist Association will be “feeding the multitude” Nov. 22-24.

Other churches in the state have picked up on First Baptist’s 2008 “Feeding the 5,000” event in which it distributed 1,000 boxes of food that each would provide a Thanksgiving feast for a family of five following a worship service and gospel presentation at the church. Metrolina is taking it citywide.

Bob Lowman, Metrolina director/missionary, is a member of First Baptist Charlotte and immediately following the service last year began planning for a 2009 event among the associations 113 churches.

Twenty-two churches committed to participate and will distribute from eight sites an estimated 2,700 boxes of food that each contains enough rice, yams, beans and a canned ham to feed five. Each box will also contain a paperback copy of the New Testament.

Two of the churches will provide a meal after the worship service, before distributing the boxes of food.

Contributed photo

Canned hams, along with yams, rice, and beans, were put in boxes in 2008's Feed the 5,000 effort by First Baptist Church, Charlotte. This year the Metrolina Baptist Association has expanded the effort.

Following a meeting in Cary Nov. 16 Lowman thought of including a New Testament and he stopped at every LifeWay Christian Bookstore between Cary and Raleigh and bought each of the 1,600 copies available.

The eight distribution points are: First Baptist, Nations Ford Community, First Baptist, Matthews; University Hills, Holly Hunter, Westmoreland, East and New Hope.

Each church distributed flyers advertising the event to apartment complexes, trailer parks and other places with a likelihood of finding residents who need the help.

The best news to Lowman, associational director/missionary for three years, is that four churches are reviving or starting food pantry ministries as a result of the initiative.

“My hope when we started promoting this event was that churches would come forward to say, ‘We want to do that, but believe we should start doing it year round,’” Lowman said. “So three or four churches have started food pantries. And one that was operating a pantry, but being overrun by need, is getting other churches to help now in a cooperative effort.”

Metrolina Association has undergone many difficult days in the past few years, but Lowman, director/missionary for three years, said the “Feeding the Multitudes in Metrolina” project has “helped unite us in ways we haven’t been united in years.”

“The practical reason for doing this is that feeding ministries in Charlotte are being significantly used because so many families are coming asking for food and resources,” Lowman said. “We believe it’s our responsibility as a church to feed the hungry, so we’re doing that.”

The trend, he said, has been for churches to pass off their feeding mission to other organizations. “When people come to the church for help, it is good if they help from the church,” he said.

He said the worship service before food distribution and the New Testament in each box means the churches will be feeding “body and spirit.”

Lowman hopes to see the vision double to feed 25,000 people next year.

11/20/2009 9:02:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Christians ought to love God’s creation too

November 20 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Christians set the table for creation care — centuries early — but their submerging that call beneath other concerns allowed the stewardship of God’s creation to be claimed by political interests and let it force division in the family.

All for no good purpose, according to four internationally recognized speakers at a Creation Care conference Oct. 30-31 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Christians should be involved in creation care because we live in the world God created and cares about, said philosopher David Cook, who teaches at Wheaton College, Oxford, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a fellow for the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern.

Acts 17 shows that the environmental debate should begin with the churches, said Cook. In that passage the Apostle Paul tells the Athenians that “God who made the world and everything in it — He is Lord of heaven and earth and … gives life and breath and all things.”

God did not separate creation into “humans” and the “rest of creation” pulled together for human consumption, speakers explained. Humans are a part of creation, the part given responsibility to serve and to keep the garden.

Calvin DeWitt, a passionate professor at the University of Wisconsin whose boundless delight in every part of creation, from bugs to weeds to the marshes of his hometown, said humans disregard the cries of nature.

SEBTS photo

Calvin DeWitt, left, addresses a group at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Creation Care conference.

With 12 of the world’s 13 major fisheries in “collapse” we still keep catching and eating spawning fish. “We can’t help ourselves,” he said.

Speakers made frequent references to the Jesus of 1 Col. 1:15-17 which says in part “all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.” 

“The history of environmentalism is to save and reconcile all things,” DeWitt said. In his decades of creation care action he’s found “most top environmentalists are passionate for creation care and are active churchmen.”

Christians were active creation care advocates without even using the terminology until the Industrial Revolution shifted values to economic benefit at the expense of land, water and air quality, DeWitt said.

“We have come to presume that our industrial economy can and must drive creation’s economy,” DeWitt said. “Meaning if the solution will cost money, the science must be wrong … science isn’t about polls, but truth.”

 We are on “dangerous theological ground” to act as if we support “industrial Christianity” which says, “this is the way we operate and creation better take heed to operate within our economy,” said DeWitt, who paced the main floor while speaking.

Lest anyone question the importance of commitment to creation care, DeWitt said, “Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”

In other words, human activity that disregards its own effect on creation is threatening the ability of humanity’s continued survival on earth. Ultimately, the earth will be fine, the speakers agreed. It is humans whose survival is threatened.

As biologist Paul Erlich said, “Nature bats last.”

DeWitt said global warming is “unequivocal…people will say it’s not, but it is, and you’d better believe it.”

While even some who concede the earth is warming doubt human influence on the rise of global temperatures, DeWitt the historical graphs rise sharply when human influence is introduced. He asked, “What if humans are not responsible or only partly responsible? Does that mean we should just call it an act of God and take out an insurance policy and sing together ‘This is not my home?’”

Human influence on warming 

Steven Bouma-Prediger addressed that theme by looking at the complaints that environmentalists typically bear against Christians who disregard creation.

Bouma-Prediger, an active outdoorsman who led hiking, canoeing and climbing adventures in the Nantahala National Park, is chair of the religion department of theology and ethics at Hope College in Holland, Mich.

He said some actually blame “the earth is not my home” attitude of Christians for the ecological calamity lurking in the near future.

“This dualism keeps us from relating not only to the natural world but to ourselves,” he said, calling for confession for the “various ways Christians encourage exploitation of the earth.”

“We are indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and most of its cultures,” he said. “We’re as indifferent as most industrial organizations.”

He outlined the ecological complaint against Christians saying that the Gen. 1:26-28 verses that sanction “rule” and subjugation of earth provide “sanction for ecological destruction” when misinterpreted.

Christian dualism that separates soul and body, spirit and matter, culture and nature, male and female devalues one over the other, he said.

“Escapist eschatology (view of end times)” justifies “exploitation” of earth’s resources, because if “the world will be destroyed, why care for it?” said Bouma-Prediger, explaining environmentalists’ frustration with Christianity.

Then he asked if such theology is even accurate. “In God’s good future will the earth be destroyed?” he asked.

He said historical interpretation of 2 Peter 3:10, which says on the final day “…the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (KJV) is “an egregious misinterpretation, maybe the worst in the New Testament.”

Other interpretations, including the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible, say on that day the earth and its works “will be disclosed.” The NIV says, “laid bare.” German interpretation of the passage says the earth “will find its judgment” and the Dutch says “will be found.”

“After the refiner’s fire of purification, the earth will be found, discovered, not burned up,” Bouma-Prediger said. “This text is not about rapture or destruction, but about refinement and renewal of creation.”

He caused a bit of stir in the room when he said the idea of “rapture” or being caught up into the air on the day of Christ’s return is a misinterpretation, as well. He said creation is not “ephemeral and unimportant” and that Christians will join Christ’s procession as He returns to earth.

“We are not raptured off the earth,” he said. “God loves the world. He returns to the world and will not leave the world behind.”

The panelists encouraged Christians not to be “just takers, but care takers.”

11/20/2009 8:42:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 4 comments

Churches become ‘Missionary Encouragers’

November 20 2009 by Jami Becher, North American Mission Board

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — One catalyst for transforming ordinary churchgoers into mobilized, on-mission Christians is a personal connection with a missionary.

Friendship Baptist Church in Warner Robins, Ga., made that connection last year when it adopted Jamie Daughtry through the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Missionary Encourager initiative. Daughtry serves in British Columbia, Canada.

“Jamie has been the greatest encouragement to our church,” said Connie Surratt, Jamie’s liaison with the 19-year-old congregation. “She is such a remarkable young woman with great spiritual insight and depth. It was a wonderful idea for us to sponsor her. We were the ones who received the blessing.”

Friendship Baptist adopted Daughtry by signing up to become a Missionary Encourager church at Churches or small groups are invited to adopt a missionary for a minimum of one year.

“The best thing about having them adopt me was all of their prayers and e-mails,” Daughtry said. “I was struggling with some things that fall and really going through a hard time. Their e-mails, letters and gifts encouraged me in a way I’ve never been encouraged before. God proved Himself faithful through those precious people.”

NAMB photo

US/C2 Missionary Jamie Daughtry, right, was honored at a luncheon last spring by her “Missionary Encouragers” at Friendship Baptist Church in Warner Robins, Ga.

Churches who adopt missionaries can choose to support and encourage them in a variety of ways. First and foremost is prayer — developing a plan to pray for the missionary regularly. Churches also can send notes of encouragement via e-mail, letters, cards and care packages with items the missionary/family enjoys.

“Friendship overwhelmed me one time by sending a huge care package,” Daughtry said. “They sent a box with tons of music CDs, girly items and even the ‘Praise Dance Revolution’ video game for my youth group. The package was so unexpected it brought tears to my eyes.”

Churches can take their missionary encouragement a step further by sending volunteers and mission teams to assist the missionary in his or her field of service. Extending speaking invitations to events such as mission fairs, conferences or the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and North American Missions Emphasis during the first week of March each year also is a way to show support for their work.

When Daughtry returned home to Georgia, she was invited to speak at Friendship Baptist and meet her encouragers face to face.

“I spent most of the time crying,” Daughtry said. “They continued to encourage me by having a luncheon for me, giving me a plaque with my name and the church’s on it and most importantly they prayed over me again.”

“Meeting Jamie when she came to visit in March was the culmination of all the months of knowing her through correspondence,” Surratt said. “She is so honest and real in her Christian walk. What an inspiration.”

Carol Baker, the Missionary Connections coordinator at NAMB, said her goal is for every church to encourage their missionary like Friendship Baptist has done with Daughtry.

“North America has become a diverse mission field. Missionaries often serve in places where the culture is very different from where they call home. It can be lonely and overwhelming,” Baker said. “Southern Baptists’ encouragement and support will motivate them to continue the excellent but challenging work to which God has called them.”

Currently 300 churches have adopted 800 of NAMB’s missionaries. If one out of eight of Southern Baptists’ 44,000-plus churches would adopt a NAMB missionary, all 5,600 missionaries in the United States and Canada could know they are prayed for and encouraged in their work.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Becher writes for the North American Mission Board.)  

11/20/2009 8:38:00 AM by Jami Becher, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

Christians forgo Facebook for ‘digital fasting’

November 20 2009 by Bobby Ross Jr., Religion News Service

In the world of faith-based social networking, evangelical Christian leader Mark Oestreicher commanded a huge chunk of cyberspace.

Known as “Marko,” the technological hipster amassed 4,000 Facebook friends, 1,500 Twitter followers and 2,000 daily readers of his blog.

But then he decided he’d had enough — and unplugged from his online circle of friends.

“It’s not that I don’t think online connections are real. It’s just that they are perpetually superficial,” said Oestreicher, former longtime president of Youth Specialties, a company based in El Cajon, Calif., that specializes in youth pastor training materials and seminars.

In an age when many religious leaders embrace the latest technology and even “tweet” from the pulpit, some — like Oestreicher — are reassessing the potential negative impact of online overload.

“Unplugging has become essential to my spiritual journey and truly hearing God,” said Anne Jackson, an author, speaker, and volunteer pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tenn. “For me, all the noise can drown that out if I’m not careful.”

RNS photo courtesy of Mark Oestreicher

Mark Oestreicher had 4,000 Facebook friends, 1,500 Twitter followers, and 2,000 daily readers of his blog before he unplugged to spend more time with his family. From left: Daughter Liesl, 15; wife, Jeanie; and son Max, 11.

Jackson, author of the book Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic, maintains a church leadership blog at that draws 150,000 page views a month, by her estimate.      

She has 6,700 Twitter followers.

But earlier this year, she closed her Facebook account — saying goodbye to 2,500 friends — and committed to spend less time on Twitter and her blog.

She finally acknowledged what her husband had hinted for a while: She had become a little obsessed with her online persona. “For me, Facebook was a problem,” Jackson wrote in an essay titled “Why I Kissed Facebook Goodbye.”

“I don’t believe everyone should quit using Facebook, or be afraid of it if one hasn’t started,” she added. “We just need to be aware of the ways any form of media can interrupt our time with God or those closest to us.”

Balance is the key, said Peggy Kendall, an associate professor of communication studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., who has researched the impact of technology on society.

She bristles at the notion that online connections are “perpetually superficial.”

“While there are certainly limitations to online communication, there are also significant benefits to communicating online that one can only rarely experience face to face,” said Kendall, author of the forthcoming book Reboot: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World.

In the old days of youth ministry, a pastor might endure years of junior high gym nights and overnight retreats before a student would feel comfortable enough to share deep hurts and uncertainties and ask authentic questions, she said.

But in an age of texting and instant messaging, a student might divulge “intensely personal things” within days of getting to know the youth pastor, Kendall said.

Students “have found that the hyperpersonal nature of online communication provides them a safe place to be real and communicate freely,” she said.

Rather than unplug entirely, Kendall advocates that people of faith periodically “fast” from technology — to assess what’s helpful about their online activities and what’s simply distracting.

This concept has become a “huge conversation” in the classes that theology professor Dillon Burroughs teaches at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“I call it `digital fasting,’ although I recommend short breaks since it is like asking someone my parent’s age to stop using a phone or reading a newspaper,” said Burroughs, a former pastor who networks extensively with ministry leaders and has more than 38,000 Twitter followers.

During the week, Margot Starbuck, a mother of three who works as a writer and speaker, said she writes, blogs and typically replies to e-mails within minutes of receiving them.

“If I’m not at my computer, I’m wondering what I’m missing,” said Starbuck, an ordained Presbyterian pastor who lives in Durham. “I check e-mail first thing in the morning and often as the last thing I do before bedtime. I am not proud of that.”

Even on Sundays, when she wasn’t technically working, she found herself staying busy with e-mail and computer games. So, she implemented what she calls “Unplugged Sabbath” — no computer all day long.

“When I wake up in the morning, when I’d typically start mentally tuning in to work on the computer, I find I have nothing better to do than crawl in bed with my daughter,” Starbuck said.

“After worship, when I don’t have to be about my own business, I’m freed up to take a hike with my family and be entirely present to them,” she added. “By the time evening rolls around, I don’t even want to check the e-mail that’s backed up all day.”

In Oestreicher’s case, he said he’s not suggesting that everyone delete online profiles and stop using the Internet. Rather, he said he made a personal decision to choose “best over good” and stop constantly checking his Blackberry for updates.     

Trying to maintain hundreds — and even thousands — of online connections distracted from his real-life relationships with his family and colleagues, he said.

Months after unplugging, he voiced surprise at how little withdrawal pains he experienced.

“I think that was primarily because I so immediately saw a return of four things I was hoping for: time, presence, focus and creativity,” he said. “My family could tell the difference, and my co-workers also. It was rather astounding, actually.”

11/20/2009 8:33:00 AM by Bobby Ross Jr., Religion News Service | with 1 comments

Cogdill to step down as CU Divinity School dean

November 20 2009 by Campbell University

BUIES CREEK — Michael Cogdill, founding dean and professor of pastoral leadership at the Campbell University Divinity School, has announced his desire to step down from his current post at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 academic year. Cogdill will begin service as a full-time faculty member in the divinity school.

Campbell University photo

Michael Cogdill

Cogdill has served as the divinity school’s only dean since his appointment in December 1995. During the last 14 years, he has led the school to numerous accomplishments. Among them are the recruitment of an experienced and knowledgeable faculty, the development of an innovative curriculum, the building of a solid endowment, the achievement of the school’s full accreditation and the strengthening of church ties throughout Baptist and other circles.  

Under his leadership, the divinity school also saw the creation of a doctor of ministry degree program. In recent years, he helped guide the work of the Butler Chapel Campaign Cabinet resulting in the building of Campbell’s first-ever chapel.

“In 1995 it was Campbell University’s good fortune to position Mike Cogdill as founding dean of the divinity school.  In the ensuing years he has led the divinity school in superb fashion,” said Jerry Wallace, Campbell’s president. “While we shall miss his leadership, we are pleased that as a professor of pastoral leadership he will continue at Campbell to bring his considerable knowledge and skill to bear in the training of Christian ministers.”

 In a prepared statement, Cogdill shares the following words with the divinity school faculty, staff, and students:  “It has been a dream come true to serve as the founding dean of the divinity school. I care deeply for the welfare of the school, and for all of its faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. It is now time in my life to give thanks for this wonderful chapter of ministry, and to embrace the new opportunities for the future. I look forward to continuing to help the divinity school prosper and grow as a full-time member of the faculty.”

The university will form a search committee in the coming weeks to select the next dean.

11/20/2009 4:49:00 AM by Campbell University | with 3 comments

Duke Divinity prof. discusses war, peace

November 19 2009 by Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The following is an edited interview with Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School, conducted by Kevin Eckstrom, a writer with Religious News Service.)

DURHAM — Remember that book, How to Make Friends and Influence People? Let’s just say that Duke University ethicist Stanley Hauerwas has been hugely influential, but that doesn’t mean his salty tongue has made him a lot of friends along the way.

Hauerwas, a self-described Christian pacifist, is an expert on just war theory. As Hauerwas sees it, not only did Iraq and Afghanistan fail to meet the criteria of a just war, but neither did World War II. Now, as the Obama administration weighs its options in Afghanistan, Hauerwas remains decidedly pessimistic not only about American prospects, but also American morality.

RNS photo courtesy of Duke Divinity School

Ethicist Stanley Hauerwaus is an expert on just war theory and believes Christians have been too passive about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hauerwas, 69, talked about his view on war and peace, his dismal assessment about the state of America’s churches, and why President Obama isn’t likely to come calling. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What should President Obama do about Afghanistan?

A: Afghanistan was understood to be part of the war against terror, and that was a decisive mistake because as soon as you said we are at war, you gave Osama bin Laden what he wanted — he became a warrior, and not just a murderer. I would be much happier with a whole reconsideration of our involvement there — not as a war, but as a police function, and how the police might intervene to arrest bin Laden.

I know that sounds utopian, but just try thinking you’re going to win a war in Afghanistan. I can’t imagine anything more utopian than that. Ask the British. Ask the Russians. It’s never going to happen.

Q: With seven years of hindsight, was Afghanistan ever a just war?

A: Afghanistan has the possibility of being limited in a way that might make it a bit more justifiable, but it’s still not clear what we’re fighting for. It’s so deeply ambiguous that it’s hard to fit into just war criteria. The very idea that you begin to assess the justness of a war after the war is already going to happen, I’m sorry, it’s already too late.

Q: How would you assess the church’s response to the Iraq war?

A: Awful. Christians — and it started with Sept. 11, as soon as we said we are at war — Christians said “that’s us.” We never asked the hard questions about the war on terror, and that is, I think, why Iraq happened. It has everything to do with the inability to distinguish between the Christian “we” and the American “we.”

Q: So does the church need a service of repentance?

A: The church has lost its ability to be a disciplined community because we’re now, religiously, in a buyer’s market. Christianity has to bill itself as very good for your self-realization, and that’s killing us because we’re not very good for your self-realization. We’re good for your salvation, which is not the same thing. Hopefully God is making sure that we’re not going to survive in the position we’re currently in.

Q: What kinds of questions should be we asking now about Afghanistan?

A: We need to ask them to tell us the truth. Tell us that we’re engaged in an unwinnable business here, but we have these kinds of political stakes and we want to achieve those, and people are going to die for ambiguous political ends. Just tell us the truth.

Q: What should be the church’s role in the debate over Afghanistan?

A: Let’s start with people in our congregations who are connected with the military, and ask them how they can justify that. Let’s start there. I have high regard for people in the military, but very seldom are they asked to justify what they’re doing.

Q: So every Christian is called to be a pacifist?

A: Yes, absolutely.

Q: So how do you respond to people who say that’s unrealistic?

A: Try lifelong monogamous fidelity in marriage. Do you think that’s realistic? Yet we do it. I’m not terribly cowed by the charge of being unrealistic.

Q: If Obama were to call you for advice on Afghanistan, what would you say?

A: I’d say you have to tell the American some really hard truths, namely that the war on terror was a mistake and we’ve got to start, as Americans, learning to live in a world that we don’t control. That’s not going to make you very popular.

Q: So you’d be politically toxic to the president of the United States?

A: Yeah, I would be. Just like (former Obama pastor) Jeremiah Wright. I hope I’m absolutely as toxic as Jeremiah Wright.

Q: Why?

A: Because I think what I’m saying is what Christians should be saying.

Q: The hard truths?

A: Absolutely.

11/19/2009 4:36:00 AM by Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service | with 8 comments

IMB appoints 55 despite financial hardship

November 18 2009 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

SHREVEPORT, La. — Despite the rocky economy and a red-line budget, International Mission Board (IMB) trustees took a step of faith Nov. 10 when they celebrated the appointment of 55 new missionaries at Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., in conjunction with the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) annual meeting.

Earlier this year, 25 of the 55 appointees were told they would be delayed going to the mission field until 2010 because there wasn’t enough money to send them. The global recession, decreased giving through the Cooperative Program and a $29 million shortfall in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering left the IMB with a limited budget, forcing trustees to restrict new missionary appointments.

But during the summer, Southern Baptists responded to the IMB’s financial restrictions with a grassroots effort to raise additional support to send as many of the delayed missionary candidates as possible before the end of 2009. IMB leadership determined the extra gifts would be enough to send 25 of the 69 career candidates on hold, including Tim and Audrey Shepard.*

The Shepards had already quit their jobs, sold their house, said goodbye to family and friends — even given away the family dog — when they got the news their appointment was being delayed until 2010, potentially leaving them in limbo for six months or more. But now they won’t have to wait and are already preparing for their assignment in Asia.

BP photo

A girl carries the banner of Mauritania, West Africa, during the procession of flags at the IMB appointment service at Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, La. The 55 new missionaries bring the total number of IMB missionaries to 5,512.

The Shepards previously served 15 years with the IMB but left the field in 2004 so their daughter could attend high school in the United States.

“We’re thrilled to be missionaries again,” Audrey Shepard said. “We have seen how it is for missionaries that are sent without the support that Southern Baptist missionaries have, and we know that in this economy they must be really struggling.

“We don’t have that burden as Southern Baptists.... We can be on the field, drawing people into the kingdom, and not think about where our next paycheck is coming from, and that’s a tremendous blessing,” Mrs. Shepard said. “We have faith in Southern Baptists that they will never let their missionaries go in need; that they will always support missions, and they’ve proven that throughout history.”

Zoe Parker,* who also was among the 25 appointees who would have been delayed, is now getting ready to go to South Asia, where she’ll serve as a church planter.

Born to an abusive, alcoholic father, Parker became a Christian at age 9, only to turn her back on God at 16 when her boyfriend committed suicide. Parker says she was angry at God because He didn’t seem to answer her prayers to heal her family, and her boyfriend’s death was the last straw. She eventually married and became a social worker, trying “to fix an unfixable world.” She remembers sitting on urine-soaked sofas and fending off roaches while visiting clients’ homes — experiences she now recognizes as training ground for her work overseas.

Then at 34, her life was rocked again by death when her husband, Carl, died suddenly of a heart attack. But this time, instead of driving her away, the death brought Parker back into a relationship with her Savior. Fifteen years later, she is answering God’s call to share Christ’s love overseas.

“God has used everything with a purpose for getting me to this point,” Parker said. “I’m very excited that God is allowing me to go (to the field) earlier than expected.... I feel very humbled and very grateful.

“How do you say thank you in a situation like this? ... It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the Lord my God and to go on this adventure with Him,” Parker added. “It’s not something that I take lightly or for granted.”

As a sign of their commitment to support the new missionaries, Louisiana Baptists present for the appointment service took up their own special offering of nearly $8,500. David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, called it a “second mile” offering, in reference to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

“Louisiana Baptists love missions, and we’re going to make a demonstration of that tonight,” Hankins said, addressing the many church pastors in the audience. “If someone compels you to go one mile, then you go a second mile. The first mile is out of duty, the second mile is out of love. The first mile is what you do under ordinary conditions; the second mile is what you do under difficult conditions.”

*Name changed for security reasons.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for IMB.)

11/18/2009 10:22:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

At 100, pastor slows down but keeps on preaching

November 18 2009 by Greg Garrison, Religion News Service

THOMAS, Ala. — J.W. Archie stepped into the pulpit and did his usual duties as associate pastor for Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church.

He introduced the walk-in song. He led the Scripture reading and the responsive reading, prayed, took up the benevolence offering and presided at the altar call.

Sunlight streamed through a tinted window and cast flickers of honey-colored light on Archie’s black suit jacket. He studied a piece of paper under the glow of a reading lamp over the lectern as he led the responsive reading.

It’s not bad for someone who just turned 100 years old. When he led his prayer, he spoke from the heart, in the studied rhythms of decades of practice.

“Thank the Lord for last night’s sleep, and thank the Lord for this morning’s rise,” he said. “Bring home wandering minds and scattering thoughts. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our savior. Amen. Thank God.”

The dark wood-paneled walls of Mt. Hebron blend into the stained-wood pews and the brown curtain hiding the baptistery. Two singers and an organist belted out a gospel song, “You Brought Me From a Mighty Long Way.”

Then Archie yielded the pulpit to the pastor, Thomas Smith.

A stone’s throw from the church parking lot, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train sat on the tracks. Sometimes the trains have been known to roar by during services. “It doesn’t bother me,” Archie said.

Nearby are the steel mills where Archie worked, for Republic Steel, for “32 years, 10 months and six days,” to the best of his recollection.

“Anything you ask him, he’ll know off the top of his head,” said one of his sons, Tim Archie.

During all his years in the steel mill, the elder Archie reported to work for the 3 to 11 p.m. shift to shovel coal into the ovens that fired up to melt the iron ore to make steel.

RNS photo by Tamika Moore/The Birmingham News

J.W. Archie still preaches from the pulpit of Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church in Thomas, Ala., at the age of 100.

“I was late one time,” Archie said, but only because he had to testify as a witness in a trial about a stolen dog, he said.

Archie was born Nov. 10, 1909, and moved to Birmingham in 1941, the same year he joined the Mt. Hebron church. He was ordained and began preaching there in 1977. “It was my calling,” he said.

He’s lived in the same house in the steel mill village since September 1941. “I walked to work,” he said. “It took five minutes.”

His wife died of pneumonia in 1987.

Archie goes to bed at 6:30 p.m. and wakes up by 7 a.m. “I get tired of sitting around and I go to bed,” he said. “I just keep on going till they call me home.”

In the summer, he keeps a garden, growing black-eyed peas and okra.

“I cut it, wash it and put it in the deep freeze,” he said.

He’s got enough quarts of peas and okra frozen to last him through the winter. His health has held up well, Archie said.

“It’s fair,” he said. “I take a cholesterol pill. I’ve been taking them for two months. That’s all I take.”

He wears glasses in the pulpit to read from the Bible and the responsive readings. He preaches when the pastor goes on vacation. He plans to keep up his church duties as long as he can, he said.

“Ain’t nobody in my family lived as long as I have,” Archie said. “I just thank God.”

Unlike many centenarians, he has no longevity tips to offer.

“Ain’t got no secrets,” he said. But he does have words of wisdom to live by.

“Treat everybody straight and trust God for his word,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Garrison writes for The Birmingham News in Birmingham, Ala.)

11/18/2009 10:03:00 AM by Greg Garrison, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Next Sherwood film to spotlight fatherhood

November 18 2009 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

ALBANY, Ga.  — The movie-making church that filmed “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants” announced its next release Sunday night — “Courageous,” a movie about fatherhood that the church hopes will convict men to rise up and be spiritual leaders of their children and families.

Alex and Stephen Kendrick, associate pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church, said the script — which the two brothers have not finished — will focus on the lives of four policemen and their struggle to be better fathers. Not all of them succeed. It will be the fourth movie from the church, which saw its last two films, Facing the Giants (2006) and Fireproof (2008), surprise movie observers and gross $10 million and $33.5 million, respectively, despite relatively small budgets by Hollywood’s standards. Fireproof was the top grossing independent film last year. The church gets only a small slice of the revenue and puts it toward various ministries.

The target date for filming Courageous is spring 2010, with release likely in early 2011. A budget has not been set, although it probably will be more than it was for Fireproof, which cost $500,000 to make.

The movie is being filmed at a time when 36 percent of all children live without their biological fathers and 40 percent of all births take place outside of marriage.

The announcement — attended by a large contingent of Christian and secular media— would have gone largely unnoticed if not for the success of its recent films, particularly Fireproof, which spawned a New York Times best-selling book, “The Love Dare” and also launched a marriage movement. The church, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, is praying that Courageous sparks a fatherhood movement.

“The media often portrays fathers as weak, selfish, often immoral,” Alex Kendrick told church members. “But we know the healthier home is when a father is engaged and involved with a purpose.... It is our desire that when men walk out of the theater, they will ask themselves what kind of man they are and — if they are a father — what kind of father they are.”

He added to a standing ovation, “Is this (movie) likely to be controversial? You bet. But are we going to back down from what the Lord has told us to do? No way.”

The controversy, Alex Kendrick told Baptist Press, cannot be avoided in a movie that tells men they should be the spiritual leaders of their families.

Photo by Haley Catt

Leaders at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., present the title and theme of the church’s next feature film. From left: Senior Pastor Michael Catt, Associate Pastor Stephen Kendrick, Executive Pastor Jim McBride and Associate Pastor Alex Kendrick.  

“We want to say, ‘Fathers, it is your job to nurture and to lead your children in the admonition of the Lord. The steering wheel of your family is supposed to be in your hands, not your wife’s, not anybody else’s. This is your job.’ Your job is to serve and protect and to teach about the Lord.”

The movie has already impacted Stephen Kendrick’s marriage. He said in writing the script he became convicted so much that he started leading his family in evening discipleship, reading the Bible to his wife and four kids, and leading in discussion. The effect on his children, he said, has been “incredible.”

“My heart’s desire is if we can call men to spiritual leadership in their homes and to be praying over their kids and their families and to be feeding them the Word ... there’s no telling what God will do,” Stephen Kendrick told BP.

The movie will spotlight one of the officers and how he is led to be a better father following a tragic event in his family. At one point the policeman tells his friends, “I do not want to be a good enough dad. I want to be a good dad honorable to God.” He searches the Bible and writes out a “code” for what kind of father he wants to be, and he asks his three police buddies to hold him accountable. All of them are inspired by watching the change in his life, but not all of them end up being godly fathers.

Courageous, the Kendricks said, gets much of its inspiration from the Old Testament prophet Joshua and his declaration in Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The movie gets its title from God’s urging of Joshua to be “strong and courageous.”

The movie’s theme and title were decided after a year of prayer by the Kendricks, senior pastor Michael Catt and executive pastor Jim McBride. Even before the church shot its first film, Catt said, it was decided that the four must be in agreement over every major decision.

“We don’t do any of this with a 3 to 1 vote,” Catt said. “We have to be in harmony and unity because we believe that God blesses unity.”

Courageous, Alex Kendrick said, is not a “Fireproof Part 2.”

“Fireproof was centrally focused on marriage. This one is not,” he said. “It will have aspects of marriage but this one is centrally focused on men living with integrity — especially in light of their role as fathers. We’re going after the hearts of men with this movie and calling them to take God at his Word.”

The film’s script, McBride said, “will dictate the budget,” which they hope to know in about two months.

“But we’re making decisions like, does the car skid to a halt or does it blow up?” Stephen Kendrick said to laughter.

The budget for the first film, “Flywheel,” was $20,000. Each film after that increased in budget five-fold: Facing the Giants to $100,000 and Fireproof to $500,000.

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

11/18/2009 9:54:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Haggard calls prayer meeting his ‘resurrection’

November 14 2009 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Former evangelical leader Ted Haggard, who left the ministry after being caught in a sex and drug scandal, said Nov. 12 that the start of a prayer meeting in his Colorado home is a sign of his “resurrection” but not necessarily of a new church.

“For the people who come tonight, that means they believe in the resurrection in me,” Haggard told reporters before the start of the meeting in Colorado Springs, the Associated Press (AP) reported. “Because I died. I was buried.”

Haggard was dismissed from Colorado Spring’s New Life Church in 2006 for “sexually immoral conduct” after a male escort said he had given him massages and sold him methamphetamine. The former pastor also resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Haggard expected fewer than 20 people for the meeting but more than 100 showed up, The Denver Post reported. While he intends to hold regular prayer meetings, Haggard said he doesn’t plan to start a new congregation.

“I don’t have that hope,” Haggard said. “I was a 28-year-old boy when I started (New Life).”

But he also said that at age 53, he realizes things can occur unpredictably.

Pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church commented briefly on Haggard’s activities in a statement released on the eve of the prayer meeting, the AP reported.

“New Life Church will always be grateful for the many years of dedicated leadership from Ted Haggard and we wish him and his family only the best,” Boyd said.

11/14/2009 5:45:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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