November 2011

Fla. Baptists celebrate ethnic diversity

November 27 2011 by Barbara Denman

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (BP) – Messengers to the 150th annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention experienced the international flavor of South Florida Nov. 14-15 at Church by the Glades in Coral Springs.

Caribbean singers, Hispanic choirs and prayers in various languages set the culturally diverse tone for the historic occasion as Bernie Cueto, pastor of the Iglesia La Familiar of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, became the first Hispanic in Florida Baptist history to preach the convention sermon.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Cueto shared how God called him as a college student to follow His path for his life. The young father also serves as chaplain and instructor of biblical and theological studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, influencing the spiritual life of 4,000 students and faculty.

After receiving advanced degrees in Texas schools, the spiritual lostness of South Florida, where an estimated 95 percent of the population is unchurched, compelled him to move.

Prior to the two-day meeting, South Florida’s cultural and economic diversity set the stage for Crossover evangelistic events at 14 ethnically diverse venues across three counties and in at least six languages. The events drew nearly 3,200 people, and the gospel was presented more than 100 times in various settings, resulting in 260 professions of faith and almost 300 prospects.

The theme of the annual meeting, “Remember,” brought focus to a fresh awareness of the basics of the Christian life as the 1,000-plus registered attendees – including 815 messengers – remembered “Your Call,” “Your Cause” and “Your Crown” throughout four sessions. In all, 394 of the 2,931 Florida Baptist churches were represented.

The basic tenets of the Baptist faith were brought alive with the opening sermon by Church by the Glades pastor David Hughes, who used the illustration of an Oreo cookie fully submerged in a glass of milk as a call to biblical immersion during baptism. His sermon, titled “Undead Iguanas,” was followed by the baptism of six new believers by the Church by the Glades staff.

In his presidential address, David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, asked those in attendance to go back to the moment when God changed their lives for a fresh awareness of His spirit and purpose. Uth’s sermon sparked an altar call as pastors and their wives came forward to recommit themselves to their callings.

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, urged Florida Baptists to remember their crown during the closing session, preaching on the second coming of Jesus Christ. Wright is pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.

In video and live segments, seven pastors from across the state reflected on the time when God changed their lives. Among them was O.E. Boals, pastor of Riverside Church in Branford, who recently celebrated the 80th anniversary of his continuous service in the pastorate.

Messengers re-elected Uth as president of the convention. Other re-elected officers were Joel Breidenbaugh, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sweetwater in Longwood, first vice president; Jack Roland, a member of First Baptist Church in Ocala, second vice president; and Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Okeechobee, recording secretary.

In other business, messengers heard 52 recommendations from the State Board of Missions, including 27 proposals developed in response to Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations approved by messengers to the Florida convention last year.

Five of the GCR recommendations required a vote of the convention and were approved with little discussion. The other 25 non-GCR recommendations dealt with changes to the convention’s constitution and bylaws as well as revisions to governing documents of the convention’s agencies.

Messengers approved a seven-year Cooperative Program budget plan which would forward 50 percent of CP receipts from Florida churches to national and international causes by 2018.

A budget plan approved by the State Board of Missions in September called for a designation of shared ministries between SBC and Florida Baptist causes to be subtracted from receipts before the 50/50 split. Shared expenses would have included funding for ministry in Cuba and Haiti, theological education and stewardship and Cooperative Program development and promotion, all of which would benefit both the SBC and the Florida convention.

But in a board meeting the day before messengers were to consider the plan, members approved an amendment proposed by Clayton Cloer of Orlando to eliminate the shared ministries designation and incorporate the funding within the state convention portion of the budget.

Cloer made the recommendation at the request of Uth, who told the board he had received emails and phone calls about the issue.

“I believe it will help us come to the convention floor with greater unity, greater energy and greater traction,” said Uth, whose church is the largest Cooperative Program contributor in the state.

“This will go a long way to say to the convention, ‘We heard you last year,’“ Uth said, referring to the state’s GCR recommendations.

A second amendment clarified that the 50/50 split was not ‘contingent’ on increased CP giving by the churches, but urged “every Florida Baptist church to increase their respective Cooperative Program giving each year to a sacrificial level.”

Messengers also approved “Revision Florida,” a movement that calls all Florida Baptists “to renew their walk with Christ, refocus their efforts on the Great Commission and release their resources in a greater way to further the Kingdom.”

The state convention’s leadership was asked to work cooperatively with the International Mission Board to enlist churches’ involvement with the world’s unengaged people groups. That will be fleshed out in the Florida convention’s commitment to the IMB’s “Embrace” initiative.

Messengers approved a $31.6 million budget for 2012, up 1.94 percent from the $31 million budget for the current year. The budget will forward 40.5 percent – a percent-of-budget increase of .5 percent – through the Cooperative Program for national and international missions and ministries. Of the amount retained for Florida, 3.5 percent is designated for church planting.

No resolutions were presented at the meeting.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention will be Nov. 12-13 at First Baptist Church in Orlando.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
11/27/2011 1:57:26 PM by Barbara Denman | with 0 comments



La. Baptists urged to fight complacency

November 27 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby


COVINGTON, La. (BP) – The clock is ticking, Louisiana Baptists were reminded at the 164th annual meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention at First Baptist Church in Covington Nov. 14-15.

“It’s time to repent of our complacency,” Rod Masteller, convention president and pastor of Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, said.

David Hankins, the convention’s executive director, warned, “It’s time to conquer half-heartedness with committed and consecrated hearts.” Dustie Dunn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vivian, said during the convention sermon, “It’s time to quit playing church.”

D. August Boto, executive vice president and general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, told messengers, “It’s time for a great awakening founded upon the prayers of the saints to sweep our nation, and I for one would not be surprised if its epicenter were to be in this great state of Louisiana.”

The annual meeting began with a solemn assembly. With speakers addressing the theme of “It’s Time,” many of the 787 messengers representing 282 churches from 40 of Louisiana’s 41 Baptist associations responded by prostrating themselves from one end to the other of the 50-foot-wide altar.

Messengers approved without discussion a $21,539,860 budget for 2012, up $255,643 from the current year. Louisiana Baptists will continue to forward 36.49 percent – an anticipated $7,859,895 next year – to national and international Cooperative Program causes, as well as 50 percent of all income over the budget.

Boto thanked Louisiana Baptists for increasing their CP support during the 2010-11 fiscal year.

“In a time when more than half our Southern Baptist state conventions suffered declines, you stepped up and increased your Cooperative Program giving by more than 6 percent, and for that we thank you and thank God for you,” Boto said.

Two men with long tenures in Louisiana were nominated for convention president: Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington for 22 years, received 325 votes. Mike Walker, pastor of East Bayou Baptist Church in Lafayette for 27 years, received 247 votes. Joining Bailey were Michael Shamblin, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church in Dry Prong, as first vice president, and Ken Fryer, pastor of College Place Baptist Church in Monroe, second vice president, both by acclamation.

Jason Lupo, pastor of Lamar Baptist Church in Delhi, presented the Louisiana annual meeting’s only motion from the floor: that candidates for the office of president must be from churches that give a minimum of 7.5 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program.

Jerry Price, chairman of the order of business committee and a member of First Baptist Church in West Monroe, after consultation with the committee, said the motion would be referred to the LBC Executive Board for discussion and would be placed on the agenda for the 2012 annual meeting.

Lindsey Burns, chairman of the resolutions committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in DeRidder, presented six resolutions, each of which were approved by messengers. The first expressed “our deepest heartfelt gratitude” to those who had a part in planning and implementing the annual meeting and preceding Crossover evangelistic activities.

The others related to the New International Version of the Bible, public discourse, defense of marriage, religious liberty and the Cooperative Program 1% Challenge:

– the NIV: Messengers resolved to “express profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House for this inaccurate translation....”

– public discourse: Messengers resolved to “strongly denounce the speech or activities of any individual or group that brings shame to the name of Christ and His gospel....”

– defense of marriage: Messengers resolved to “call on President Obama to ... defend vigorously the Defense of Marriage Act....”

– religious liberty in a global society: Messengers resolved to “restate our longstanding view that religious liberty is an inalienable human right, rooted in the image of God....”

– the Cooperative Program 1% Challenge: Messengers resolved to “express our support for the Cooperative Program, ... challenge our churches to develop congregational goals for increased percentage giving through the Cooperative Program” and “pray for those who serve the Lord through our Cooperative Program supported ministries....”

Other business included reports from each entity – Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, Louisiana Baptist Foundation, Louisiana College and the Baptist Message newspaper – as well as each area of ministry: evangelism and church growth, missions and ministries and pastoral leadership. Undergirding each was the It’s Time theme.

Louisiana Baptists will celebrate 200 years of ministry in 2012. “Awaken” is the rallying cry that is to start with 21 days of prayer and fasting in January, leading to the April 29 birthday.

“It’s time to wake up,” Masteller said during the solemn assembly. “We’re allowing our children to be poisoned away from God. If we don’t turn now, we might not have another time.”

Next year’s annual meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention will be Nov. 12-13 at First Baptist Church in West Monroe.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
11/27/2011 1:55:45 PM by Karen L. Willoughby | with 0 comments



Md./Del. Baptists defend traditional marriage

November 27 2011 by

OCEAN CITY, Md. (BP) – Messengers to the 176th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware approved a budget increasing Cooperative Program giving and passed a resolution in support of biblically-defined traditional marriage.

A total of 368 messengers and 93 visitors met with the theme of “Connect for Life Change: Making Disciples” at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel in Ocean City Nov. 13-15.

Messengers passed a 2012 budget of $4.275 million, a slight reduction from $4.3 million in 2011. The change includes a 2 percent-of-budget increase in CP giving to the Southern Baptist Convention in conjunction with a move to increase CP giving by 1 percent until the year 2020, reaching the goal of keeping 49 percent in the state convention and 51 percent going to national and international causes. Reaching the goal is tied to churches increasing their giving.

President’s Message

Ken Stalls, pastor of South End Baptist Church in Frederick, was unanimously re-elected BCM/D president.

In his convention sermon titled, “Whachamakin?” Stalls told of a boy seeing his father working and asking, “Daddy, whachamakin?” Stalls asked messengers, when it comes to disciples: “Whachamakin?” Are churches looking for another Bill Hybels, David Platt or Billy Graham?

“I think we’re expecting too little,” Stalls said. “We’re called to make those new converts like Jesus Christ.” He said God’s plan from the beginning was to “make man in our own image.”

“God sent His Son into the world to restore marred vessels like us,” Stalls said, adding that if Christians believe Philippians 4:13, they have no excuses and must reflect Christ.

Regarding disciple-making, Stalls said, “We must help them know who Jesus is, what He’s like and portray Him through our lives every day. Don’t aim low. ... Aim for Jesus Christ. Settle for nothing else.”

City Disciples

In a session focused on making disciples in the city, church planter Jerome Gay shared about how to be incarnational missionaries. He is pastor of Vision Church, an inner city congregation in Raleigh, N.C.

Citing the purpose of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, Gay conveyed three reminders about engaging cities and cultures with the gospel.

“We have been sent just like the Father has sent [Jesus],” Gay said, explaining that’s what it means to be a missionary. “We have been sent by God, and we’re sent with a purpose. We’re sent with the Holy Spirit. We’re sent with power to engage our cities – to see our cities changed and revolutionized with the gospel.”

In John 17, Jesus says Christians are “in the world but not of the world,” Gay said. But Christians must engage the world and not separate themselves from it. If believers are going to make disciples in their cities, it is important that they do not equate holiness with separatism, he said.

Gay expressed concern that too many evangelicals equate being holy with being separated from sin, “as if we were not sinners saved by grace ourselves.”

Noting that cities are ugly, dirty, full of hurt and crime-ridden, Gay said incarnational missions happens when “the message of the cross is taken to the culture in community.” Being on mission is being sanctified from sin but not being severed from sinners, he said.

Many churches leave cities because of their challenges, Gay said, but Christians can’t assume people in the culture know about Jesus Christ, His cross and His resurrection. In fact, the values of pop culture are based on self-expression, success, sexual freedom and selfish pursuit, he said.

Evangelicals tend to assume that everyone shares their values and opinions, he said, but Jesus asserts that those who don’t know Him aren’t going to have the same values.

“We can’t get mad at them,” Gay said, suggesting instead to study one’s city and approach its culture in three different ways: adopt (What can we adopt in order to present the gospel in this context?); adapt (What can we adapt that gives God glory to present to this context?); or abolish (What must we abolish or reject that offends God?).

The enemy wants Christians to replace discipleship with citizenship.

“The enemy wants us to be more interested in our patriotism than in being missional,” Gay said.

Gay said Christians are Kingdom citizens, living for the glory of God, “and as Kingdom citizens, we bring this reality of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the city, and this is a counter-intuitive message.”

Gay shared two things that get in the way of that message: liberalism (too much grace without the truth) and legalism (too much truth without the grace).

“Jesus saved us from religion, not for religion,” he said. “If we are going to engage the sinners in the city, don’t forget that you are one, too.”

He concluded, “The gospel always compels us from a position of compassion to not forget who we are and to be blown away by who we are in Him.”

Officers

In addition to Stalls as president, Ron Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Havre de Grace, Md., was elected first vice president and Andrew Bell, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Essex, second vice president.

Resolutions

– “On Traditional Marriage” states that God defined marriage as between one man and one woman and that Maryland/Delaware Baptists have traditionally stood with the Southern Baptist Convention in supporting that definition, and that a growing body of research points to the benefits of traditional marriage.

The resolution also states that “intrusive redefinitions of issues like traditional marriage by the government have historically trended toward eventual threat of religious liberties and local church ability for self-determination, notwithstanding governmental assurances to the contrary.”

The Maryland legislation could consider a bill in 2012 to legalize gay “marriage.”

The resolution resolves “that we call on the state of Maryland to support the Family Law Code as it reads in November of 2011 which states, ‘Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state;’“ that “we encourage spiritual activities to promote and defend the traditional view of marriage...;” that Maryland and Delaware Baptists will encourage civic activities to promote and defend the traditional view of marriage; and “that we must proclaim love and compassion toward those who would differ in their opinions of marriage, allowing us to maintain a faithful Christian witness.” The resolution passed unanimously.

– Messengers also approved a resolution of appreciation thanking Carol Moore, assistant to the executive director, for three decades of ministry.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware will be Nov. 11-13 at Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Md.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by Sharon Mager of BaptistLIFE (www.baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.)
11/27/2011 1:46:37 PM by | with 0 comments



Lottie Moon Week of Prayer: Dec. 4-11

November 22 2011 by Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – Jesus gave His followers a task – to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-19). He commissioned believers to be His heart, His hands and His voice to share the gospel with the world.
 
Through praying for, giving to and going on mission, Southern Baptists have dedicated themselves to this legacy for more than 160 years.
 
Yet billions of people do not know Jesus as Lord. This calls for intentional prayer, sacrificial giving and direct responsibility for helping to reach the nearly 3,800 people groups in the world that have no active Christian presence among them. Learn how to adopt an unengaged, unreached people group at call2embrace.org.

The cities
More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban centers. People are migrating into cities in ever-increasing numbers, and that migration brings unique challenges to reach peoples of the cities. 
 
Jesus’ heart cried out for the peoples of the cities: “as (Jesus) approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘If you knew this day what (would bring) peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19: 41-42 HCSB). This year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) goal is $175 million. Every penny given to the LMCO is used to support nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering.
 
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Day 1 – Tokyo
In Japan’s male-dominated society, a man’s identity centers on his work. Companies reward loyalty, hard work, and long hours. But losing one’s position is a fall from grace that leads to shame. For many Japanese, losing a job means losing their identity. For some touched by the ministry of International Mission Board (IMB) workers to the homeless, it means new birth.
 
Hironobu Honda, Kiyoshi Sugioka, and Katsuo Yamamota are three of the nearly 1 million Japanese who lost their jobs during the global economic decline that began in 2007. As their foundation of pride and self-sufficiency crumbled, all three found themselves homeless. All three contemplated suicide.
 
Then they found Christ through the witness of IMB personnel helping the homeless in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. Today these men are involved in small Bible groups throughout Tokyo.
 
On March 11 a crushing earthquake and tsunami dealt Japan another blow. A nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant complicated relief efforts and led to the temporary evacuation of American citizens from Tokyo, including IMB missionaries Mark and Wendy Hoshizaki who minister to the homeless.
 
“Even before the earthquake, the homeless were beginning to ask, ‘What is important? What is real? Isn’t there some hope?’” Mark said.
 
Sugioka saw opportunities in the crises.
 
“Japan has been too comfortable and maybe this is what Japan needs to turn to the Lord,” Sugioka said.
 
Pray that both the earthquake and economic crisis will lead more Japanese to turn from their pride and self-sufficiency to faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Pray that small groups begun among the homeless will grow into reproducing churches.
 
Pray the spiritual rebirth among the homeless will spread to other sectors of Japanese society as they become bold witnesses for Christ.
 
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Day 2 – Jerusalem
As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, He wept. He thought about the people within its walls and said, "If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace.” He knew within hours He’d be crucified by the very people for whom He wept.
 
Would Jesus still look over the city and weep 2,000 years later?
 
Most believe He would. Jerusalem is a city where stress runs high, and the strain of so many people practicing so many religions in such a small area makes the tension palpable. They seek a blessing or a healing or some connection with God through well-meaning, but mistaken, devotion.
 
Bitter division resides just below the surface. Christians, Jews, Muslims – no faction would be disappointed if the other two groups would exit the city walls and disappear into the barren countryside. Many who want peace see it as something to be politically brokered.
 
“We work toward peace, we work toward bridging the gap between cultures and between the differences in people, but really it’s God’s grace and only God’s grace that will ever appear,” says an IMB worker.
 
“The situation in Jerusalem will decide what will be the situation in the rest of the world,” says a local messianic pastor. When Jesus comes, “there will be peace in Jerusalem and there will be peace in the rest of the world.”
 
Pray that the people of Jerusalem will begin to recognize the things that bring true peace.
 
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Day 3 – Karachi
Aadam Channar* was only a boy when Baptist missionary Hu Addleton first brought the gospel to his province in Pakistan. Today he is an evangelist trying to reach Pakistan’s largest city.
 
“Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan. When we arrived there (in 1956), it was 1 million population. Now it’s 17 to 18 million,” said Addleton, who retired after serving 34 years in Pakistan with his wife, Bettie. “It is a picture of the whole country, because you have every ethnic group living in Karachi.”
 
About 97 percent of Karachi follows Islam. Christians make up only about 2 percent of the city’s population, according to the U.S. State Department.
 
Channar grew up in a tiny Hindu village very different from the bustling hub of Karachi, but that did not keep him from approaching the city with the intention of sharing the good news of Jesus among its many people groups.
 
“God gave me this vision: ‘Go (to) Karachi. Leave your home, area, village.’ So God sent me here,” Channar said. “That’s why I am in Karachi.”
 
Addleton, who discipled Channar, encourages Southern Baptists to continue giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
 
“We ought to continue to pray for (Pakistani Christians) and to challenge people to go,” Addleton said.
 
Please pray for Channar as he represents the Lord as His heart, His hands, His voice in the city of Karachi, and ask that more Pakistani Christians would respond to God’s call to do the same.
*Name changed
 
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Day 4 – London
Though she has always lived in London, Fatimah grew up observing her family’s Islamic rituals, just as if she were living in her father’s homeland of Iraq. And she has faithfully passed these traditions on to her own children. Fatimah’s parents make the hajj to Mecca every year, and she has been five times herself, she says.
 
“We don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so we save that money to use to go to Mecca,” she explains. “It’s really lovely there, like a festival, with everyone there for the same purpose,” she says, her eyes shining as brightly as the tiny diamond piercing her nose.
 
Fatimah lives in an area of west London teeming with ethnic restaurants, clothing shops, mosques, and Sikh temples. To walk the streets of Southall is to encounter a very different London from what most tourists to Britain experience.
 
“London is an amazing place to get to relate to people from all over the world,” says Patrick Sims*, IMB missionary. This multicultural aspect of London brought Sims, strategy leader for the London team, to work here nearly a decade ago.
 
The world has indeed come to London: schoolchildren here speak more than 200 languages, and more than 40 percent of London schoolchildren speak a language other than English at home. As in urban settings everywhere, building relationships is a challenge for missionaries serving here.
 
Pray for missionaries in London to develop deep, cross-cultural relationships in this urban environment.
*Name changed
 
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Day 5 – Johannesburg
Lisha* was just a little girl who trusted her pastor, but he raped her. As a teenager she trusted her friend, but he raped her repeatedly. When Lisha’s mom found out she was pregnant, she kicked Lisha out, forcing her to find a home with her abusive boyfriend. He soon realized he could profit from selling Lisha to his buddies for sex. Lisha is now 33 years old and still trapped in forced prostitution.
 
Lisha is just one of an estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking around the world. Human trafficking is the practice of deceiving individuals or taking them against their will, selling, buying, and transporting them into slavery. Trafficking encompasses more than just sexual exploitation; men, women, and children are also trafficked for forced labor.
 
IMB missionary Martha Richards*, who lives in Johannesburg, met Lisha while researching trafficking in South Africa. As Lisha shared her story, Richards was eager to help girls escape from bondage.
 
“We need to open our eyes and take a hard look at the reality around us,” Richards says. “Many of these girls have never received genuine love. They desperately need to know the love of Jesus.”
 
Richards tried to help Lisha and another woman escape, but their “owner” found them and forced them back into prostitution.
 
Pray that God would save trafficking victims and their owners. Ask Him how He wants you to join the global fight against trafficking, whether through prayer, support, or personally rescuing victims of modern-day slavery.
*Names changed
 
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Day 6 – Dongguan
Factories are the bus stops and the monuments and the landmarks. Everything exists to serve them in Dongguan, China.
 
The city is divided into 32 districts, each one specializing in a different kind of manufacturing with more than 3,000 factories crammed into one town.
 
IMB worker David Rice* believes that by reaching the factories with the gospel, an entire generation of migrant workers will take the message back to their homes. These villages are often so remote that they are not even on a map, let alone on the radar of Christian strategists.
 
“People come here from all over the country looking for a job,” Rice says, noting in one year’s time he has met at least one person from all 34 provinces.
 
Rice and his ministry partner, Delun Kao*, see this group of 10 million 17- to 35-year-olds primed for making major changes in their lives. They are away from the strongholds of their culture back home. They are lonely and searching for meaning.
 
“We know they won’t stay here forever,” Kao says, noting that most return to the village by age 35. “So, the goal is to train them to be a catalyst for a new church.”
 
Through the years, Kao’s seen the training model work as migrants return to their villages and start new fellowships. Still others switch factories and start churches in their new workplace.
 
Pray that factory workers in China will open their hearts to the gospel and take it back to the village.
 
Pray how you will give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support workers like Rice who partner with national believers to be His heart, His hands, His voice.
*Names changed
 
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Day 7 – European city
Sanaz left Iran with nothing but her daughter and a will to live.
 
At 27 years old she had seen enough destruction. Her workplace, her family, her hopes for the future had been chewed up in a political machine determined to obliterate dissent. Not knowing whether her husband was dead or alive, she set out on an invisible passageway well trafficked by refugees fleeing oppression in North Africa, Afghanistan, and Iran.
 
She ended up on the crowded doorstep of a European city.
 
Here she found a government overrun with requests from asylum seekers. She found a society groaning under economic pressures not helped by a burgeoning immigrant community. Instead of freedom to pursue a new life, she found barriers.
 
Until some Afghan friends told her about a place where IMB workers are welcoming weary travelers. With food, training, and the good news, they are helping refugees find spiritual freedom – perhaps not what they left home to find, but something better.
 
For Sanaz, this has made all the difference. “I have hope that my future is bright because my heavenly Father is with me.”
 
Pray for IMB workers in this European city to have wisdom and skill in crossing cultural and language barriers with refugees who are arriving daily from places like Afghanistan and Iran.
 
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Day 8 – Rio de Janeiro
Sprawling along the hillsides beneath the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro is a city of juxtaposition. A middle-class gated community may share a wall with a gang-controlled slum. This proximity allows Eric and Ramona Reese to reach out to both extremes within the Brazilian megacity.
 
While Eric focuses on ministering in the favelas (slums), Ramona reaches out to the middle-class wives and mothers she encounters as she works out at the gym or takes their two daughters to school and ballet practice.
 
“We’re here in the city, and we try to make relationships with the people who are around us,” Ramona says.
 
One person Ramona has become friends with is Eliane Santos, a mother she met at the ballet studio. “We were just sitting and talking,” Eliane says. “Eventually, Ramona shared Christ and asked if I had asked Christ into my heart. I said, ‘No, I haven’t.’”
 
That night in her home, Eliane reflected on Ramona’s message and placed her faith in Jesus.
“I look to Ramona as a mother in the faith,” Eliane says. “She’s someone that encourages me and makes me want to go on.”
 
When Ramona heard about Eliane’s conversion, she was overjoyed.
 
“Go out and seek the lost,” Ramona says. “Relationships are what it’s all about.”
 
Pray God will help the Reeses be His heart, hands, and voice as they build strong relationships with Brazilians from opposite walks of life.
 
Pray many Brazilians will accept Christ through these friendships.
11/22/2011 1:43:25 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Only 46% of children grow up in an intact home, study says

November 22 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Only 46 percent of children in the United States will reach age 17 having grown up in a home with biological parents who are married – a figure that has a significant impact on the nation’s graduation, poverty and teenage birth rates, according to a new report.

“We have never faced anything like this in human history,” said the Family Research Council’s Pat Fagan, one of the co-authors of the study.

Compiled by Fagan and psychologist Nicholas Zill and released by the Family Research Council’s Marriage & Religion Research Institute, the data shows that:
  • The intact family rate is highest in the Northeast (49.6 percent) and lowest in the South (41.8)
  • Minnesota (57) and Utah (56.5) have the highest intact family rate among all 50 states, with Mississippi (34 percent) the lowest.
  • Asians (65.8) have the highest rate among ethnic and racial classes, blacks (16.7) the lowest.
The authors call their report the index of family belonging, and they say there is a direct correlation between a low “family belonging” rate, and high poverty and low graduation rates. A north-to-south trip on the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to Mississippi, is a good example of this correlation, the authors say.
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The percentage of children who reach age 17 with married biological parents falls drastically as one travels down the river, from 57 percent in Minnesota, to 49 percent in Illinois, 40 percent in Tennessee and 34 percent in Mississippi. At the same time, the graduation rate also falls significantly (Minnesota, 86 percent; Illinois, 80 percent; Tennessee, 75 percent; Mississippi, 64 percent). The family belonging rate is “more closely linked” to graduation rates than is government spending, the report said.

Likewise, the child poverty rate is closely tied to the breakup of the family. The child poverty rate in Minnesota is 14 percent. It then climbs during the trip down the Mississippi River: Illinois (19 percent), Tennessee (24 percent) and Mississippi (31 percent). Similarly, the unmarried teen birth rate climbs: Minnesota (6 percent), Illinois (9 percent), Tennessee (11 percent) and Mississippi (14 percent).

The report suggested four reasons why the poverty rate is so closely tied to the breakup of the family:
  • Even if wages are low, a couple is more likely to avoid poverty if both parents contribute financially.
  • It is “inherently more costly” for parents to live apart and to spend money on two houses.
  • A father is “motivated to work harder to support a child” when he lives with the child and mother.
  • Many non-residential parents don’t pay child support.
“The foundational relationship of marriage has quite an impact on the wellbeing of children, and on the welfare of both the states and the nation,” said Fagan, director of FRC’s Marriage & Religion Research Institute. “Sad to say, our family culture today is primarily a culture of rejection between parents.... Most American mothers and fathers cannot stand each other enough to raise the children they brought into existence.”

The study can be read online at http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF11K29.pdf.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).)
11/22/2011 1:36:36 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist Men respond to tornado damage

November 22 2011 by NCBM

North Carolina Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief responded to the devastation of a deadly tornado that hit Davidson and Randolph counties Nov. 16.
 
Volunteers set up feeding and shower units at Liberty Baptist Church in Thomasville.  
 
“More than 60 volunteers were working in the community all day on Saturday,” said Richard Brunson, director of N.C. Baptist Men.
 
“Please pray for the families who were affected and for the volunteers who are helping.”
 
For those who would like to contribute to disaster relief efforts, send your gifts to N.C. Baptist Men Disaster Relief, PO Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.
 
Or call Kecia Morgan at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5613. To follow the groups efforts or see photos of the clean up you can visit their Facebook page: facebook.com/ncmissions.

11/22/2011 1:28:41 PM by NCBM | with 0 comments



Thankful, yes, but to whom?

November 22 2011 by Jason Lee, Baptist Press

(EDITOR'S NOTE: See other guest columns at the bottom of brnow.org next to Tar Heel Voices.)

FORT WORTH, Texas – “Pass the turkey, please.” You can hear the subtle scrape of the fork on the plate to get the last delicious bite of grandmother’s dressing with giblet gravy. Can you picture the scene? Aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents and grandparents all gathered around a table crowded with various casseroles, another new sweet potato recipe, cranberry sauce and of course, the majestic bird as the main attraction.
 
Just after everyone gathers at the table and way before the scramble for the best couch to nap on during the Cowboys game, someone announces, “Let’s all say what we are thankful for.” Sure, it is a great idea, but is it more than just a family tradition?
 
For the secular mind, the whole holiday makes no sense. Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving somehow implies that I am not in charge of my own destiny. Thanksgiving somehow implies that a higher power not only exists but is in some way personally interested and personally involved in my life. To the secular mind, the very notion of “thanksgiving” is repulsive and must be replaced. So, the movement to the title of “Turkey Day” is no real surprise. And in these economic times, one wonders whether the national celebration is for Thanksgiving or for the consumer spending on Black Friday. Since Christmas is really about the gifts, then why wouldn’t Thanksgiving be about the department store sales and the electronic deals?
 
As Christians, we know intuitively that we should resist the secular revisions. However, is our list of what we are thankful for, enough to be a significant contrast with the contemporary climate? Does our thanksgiving actually confess a genuine hope in the Lord?
 
Believers recognize that we are not just thankful for the good things that we have but that we should direct our thanksgiving to God. If we do not add to whom we are thankful, then our thanksgiving becomes little more than a progress report or satisfaction quotient. So, it is not just that we are thankful for (i.e. happy with) our jobs, our homes or our health. We are thankful to God who is our provider, our protector and our sustainer.
 
But what if Grandpa’s question is, “What are you thankful for?” Should I correct him and say that the real question is not “what I am thankful for” but “who I am thankful to”? No, don’t do that or you may be dismissed from the table before the pumpkin pie. But it is not just that we remember that we should be thankful to God, but that we are also thankful for God (e.g. Psalms. 9:1-2). It is true that we are often overwhelmed by the gracious and loving acts of God including His good gifts of material provisions and life/health for us or our family. We are truly amazed at His provision of spiritual benefits such as forgiveness of sins, the fruit of the Spirit or a loving community of believers. However, we must never let our thanksgiving for the good provisions of God overshadow our thanks for God Himself. We need to thank Him because of His glorious nature. There would be no possibility of wonderful things such as love, mercy, truth, righteousness, beauty and life, except through God who IS these things. So, pass the rolls, but first remember to be thankful to God, for God.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason Lee is associate professor of historical theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
11/22/2011 1:26:12 PM by Jason Lee, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



BR report introduces new staff, updated logo, website

November 21 2011 by BR staff

This year has brought several changes to the Biblical Recorder. These changes were shared during its report to North Carolina Baptist messengers Nov. 8.
 
K. Allan Blume was elected to the position of editor/president in April. This year the paper has launched a new logo, new design for print and website brnow.org.
 
“A year ago, I asked you to pray … that God would lead the search team for the board of directors to find the person he had for us to call as the editor/president of the Biblical Recorder,” said Gerald Hodges, chairman of the Biblical Recorder’s Board of Directors.
 
“And I’m thankful to Him for your prayers and His guidance in that process.
 
“[Allan Blume] really needs no introduction,” Hodges said.
 
“[He] has served as a pastor in this state for 34 years. He has served this convention for many of those years. He and Pam have a heart for God’s glory in this convention and this state and around the world.”
 
Before beginning his new role, Blume was pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone for 16 years. Blume has served as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Board of Directors and served as chairman of the Convention’s Vision Fulfillment Committee prior to being named editor.
 
“Certainly our God is a God of great surprises,” said Blume, as he began his report.
 
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Gerald Hodges, right, chairman of the Biblical Recorder Board of Directors, prays for K. Allan Blume and his wife, Pam.

“I never imagined I’d be standing here in this role and addressing you about this ministry, but I want to thank you. It is a privilege to serve as your editor.”
 
Blume introduced the staff. Shawn Hendricks, a former senior writer for IMB, is the Recorder’s newest staff member.
 
He began work Oct. 24 as managing editor. Hendricks joins Dianna Cagle, assistant managing editor; Alison McKinney, business and advertising manager, and Daphne Woodall, circulation manager.
 
“We are here to serve you,” Blume said. 
 
Blume shared the Recorder’s three goals: to be biblical, committed to the Great Commission and glorify God.
 
“We want to tell the great stories of North Carolina ministries that are making a kingdom impact for the glory of God,” he said. “We want to support and encourage these great ministries and tell these stories.”
Blume reported subscriptions are on the rise, and he thanked North Carolina Baptists for their support.
“Pastors and church leaders … you’re making that possible,” he said. “The Biblical Recorder cannot grow without your help and your leadership.”
 
“Thank you for encouraging your people to subscribe, and ask them to keep visiting our website and to pass the word to others.”
 
Blume also announced the Recorder will feature articles by Roman Gabriel III, a former professional football player. Gabriel’s story was featured in the Oct. 1 issue. He will write stories focused on how God is working through athletics.
 
Gabriel was later on hand at the Recorder’s booth to draw the winners of several items that were given away by the publication.
 
The prizes included: three Holman study Bibles, two digital Fuji cameras, a Kindle Fire and an iPad. Robert Ivey, Freedom Biker Church in Fayetteville; Jan Freeman, Williamston Memorial Baptist Church in Williamston; and Vickie Bowden, Mint Hill Baptist Church of Charlotte, won Bibles. Sue Hatfield, Mount Vernon Baptist Church of Boone; and Pam Jirgal, Lakeview Baptist Church of Monroe, won cameras. Kelly Bullard, Temple Baptist Church of Fayetteville, won the Kindle; and Kenn Hucks, Sardis Baptist Church of Indian Trail, won the iPad.
 
Also, during the meeting, new Biblical Recorder board of directors were approved. The new members include: Kevin Atchley, Elizabeth Baptist Church of Shelby; Chris Byrne, New Friendship Baptist Church of Winston-Salem; Cindi Stevens, Cross Culture Church of Raleigh; and Peggy Bass Weiss, Rocky Hock Baptist Church of Edenton.
11/21/2011 3:42:30 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Unreached, unengaged embrace gospel for first time

November 21 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

To an 18-year-old on his first international mission trip the scene was surreal, like something from television or straight out of National Geographic. After spending several days in a Southeast Asia country seeking to share the gospel and build relationships, Jamie Buckley and the team from Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem headed to a predominantly Buddhist fisherman’s village off the coast.
 
Within seconds it seemed like 100 people surrounded the team. Some in the village had never seen anyone with light skin.
 
The team’s translator said they could not share the gospel in this particular village, so they headed farther away from the village to a beach. Several teenagers from the village joined them.
 
After wading through waist-deep water to get there, the team found themselves on a beautiful beach. Buckley found himself faced with the very opportunity he prayed would come on this trip.
 
Buckley wanted to share the gospel with at least one person his age. That day on the beach, Buckley shared the gospel with teenagers from the village, and four prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
 
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“God answered my prayer beyond what I prayed for. He multiplied the opportunities and allowed me to see Him at work,” Buckley said.
 
The trip to Southeast Asia included times of teaching and equipping with national believers and leaders, and also several days in an area of the country home to many “T” people. Very little is known about the T people (name changed for security reasons), an unengaged, unreached people group with no church planting strategy and less than 2 percent evangelical presence. Previously it was thought that the T people numbered about 100,000, but so far research indicates that their population is more than 300,000, and more are expected to be identified.
 
Mark Harrison, missions pastor at Old Town, said only about 50 T people have been identified as believers in Jesus Christ. Around this time last year Harrison began praying about how Old Town could get involved in reaching an unengaged, unreached people group with the gospel of Jesus Christ. A year later, Old Town’s journey has brought them all the way from Winston-Salem to Southeast Asia.
 
Harrison said the trip to Southeast Asia proved more fruitful than he could ever have imagined. “Just by showing up, God led us to the next person and the next person we needed to meet,” he said. “God is lining things up for us.” The team engaged T people in evangelistic conversations, and although most had never heard the gospel, the team experienced firsthand their receptivity to the truth.
 
One day Harrison and several other team members stopped at a Christian cemetery and met the caretaker of the cemetery. “I asked the man if he knew what the cross on the tombs meant. He said he thought it was some kind of good luck charm,” Harrison said.
 
Harrison shared with the man – who is among the T people – what it means to know Jesus Christ. “The man prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior,” Harrison said.
 
The trip was marked with stories just like that; stories of God bringing people into their path who needed to hear the gospel. The team also met national believers who want to help make disciples among the T people.
 
“We got this sense that, for the T people, their time is now. Their time for salvation is here,” Harrison said. “This is the most exciting, and intimidating thing I’ve ever done.”
 
After the trip Old Town committed to praying 40 days for the T people. During this time they are also praying for God to affirm this sense of calling to serve among the T people, and to help them discern exactly how to do that.
 
“We want to see the T people effectively reached through the generations,” Harrison said. To do that, benchmarks must be set throughout the process in order to maintain momentum, while at the same time leaving the commitment open-ended.
 
“We want to engage this people group until the Great Commission is fulfilled; until they are making disciples who are making disciples,” he said.
 
Harrison continues to keep the T people before the Old Town congregation and continues to share with them how God is at work in this journey. “The congregation must own it,” he said. “We have to empower people to have ownership of what we’re doing.”
 
Harrison wants to see other North Carolina Baptist churches across the state work together to fulfill the Great Commission by embracing unengaged, unreached people groups. Through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina he is working with the Office of Great Commission Partnerships to help create a Global Impact Network for churches wanting to work with the T people or other similar people groups in the area. The journey to embrace an unengaged, unreached people group continues to challenge – and remind – Old Town leadership that everything the church does must be focused on God’s Kingdom, and on intentionally sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
To learn more about engaging an unreached people group, visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.
11/21/2011 3:36:45 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Chowan service group selects Mills as president

November 21 2011 by Chowan University

MURFREESBORO – Julian Mills, a resident of Roanoke Rapids, has been selected to be the new president of the Chowan Christian Service Association (CCSA) Board of Directors at Chowan University in Murfreesboro.
 
The CCSA is an organization designed to help ministerial students at the institution, primarily in the area of providing scholarship funds. Mills has been a member of the CCSA Board of Directors since its inception in 2005.
 
Mills has also served for years as a member of the Chowan Board of Trustees. He is a 1959 graduate of Chowan, and in 2009, Mills was bestowed with the “Distinguished Alumni” award.
 
A native of Roanoke Rapids, Mills retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1981. He served as an Air Force combat news correspondent in Vietnam, spokesman for the president’s pilot and the “Air Force One” organization in Washington, D.C., and was also editor of Command Magazine for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs at the Pentagon. In addition, Mills was an editor for the Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio.
 
An ordained minister, he was pastor at Park Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids for 10 years and Community Center Baptist Church in Halifax for two years. He was also pastor at Sulphur Springs Baptist Church in Warrenton, Love Memorial Baptist in Goldsboro, and North Rocky Mount Baptist in Rocky Mount.
 
He also was interim pastor at a number of churches. Mills served as interim director of the North Roanoke Baptist Association, and spent two terms as chairperson of the Committee on Nominations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

He and his wife, Mary, have established one endowed scholarship with the CCSA and have recently started another one in memory of their son, Julian Jr., who died in an automobile accident.
11/21/2011 3:33:53 PM by Chowan University | with 0 comments



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