November 2016

Conference to highlight connection between evangelism, discipleship

November 28 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

A life that’s been changed by Christ should lead one to be a disciple who makes disciples.


Making disciples is what the Great Commission is all about, and North Carolina Baptists will have the opportunity to gain biblical and practical insights from some of the country’s leading disciple-making practitioners at the upcoming N.C. Baptist Disciple-Making Conference early next year.
 
The 2017 Disciple-Making Conference is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 27 at Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons. The daylong conference is free to attend, but preregistration is required.
 
A lunch option is available for $7 per person. Event details and registration information can be found online at disciplenc.org. The event is being sponsored by the Evangelism and Discipleship Group of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
 
The conference will include main sessions led by pastors Micah Fries, D.A. Horton and Ed Newton, plus a series of practical equipping sessions.
 
The event also includes a special track for women that will be led by Tabatha Frost, whose husband Brian serves as pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh. The main sessions and the equipping sessions will focus on the two pillars of disciple-making – evangelism and discipleship.
 
“Our goal is to help attendees understand that evangelism is absolutely essential for disciple-making,” said Lynn Sasser, executive leader of the BSC’s Evangelism and Discipleship Group. “Individuals must hear and understand the gospel in order to decide to follow Jesus. Then they must be discipled so that they can share the gospel with others and become a disciple who makes more disciples.
 
“We want to help people understand how evangelism and discipleship go hand-in-hand under the umbrella of disciple-making.”
 
The theme for the conference is Luke 19:10 which says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
 
Sasser said this verse could be considered the life’s mission statement of Jesus. Each of the main speakers will focus on a particular aspect of the theme verse and how it relates to disciple-making.
 
Sasser said each of the main session speakers currently serve as pastors in different ministry contexts, and have all demonstrated effectiveness in personal disciple-making and equipping others to be disciple-makers.
 
Fries currently serves as senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.
 
Prior to accepting the call to pastor Brainerd Baptist, Fries served as vice president of LifeWay Research, a pastor in Missouri and an international church planter in West Africa.
 
Horton serves as pastor of Reach Fellowship, a church plant in Long Beach, Calif. He is also the chief evangelist for the Urban Youth Workers Institute. Prior to his current roles, Horton served as an urban church planter and pastor in Kansas City, Mo., and a coordinator of urban student ministries with the North American Mission Board.
 
Newton serves as lead pastor of Community Bible Church in San Antonio. Newton has been a speaker at the BSC’s summer youth weeks at Fort Caswell, and he has a unique ability to connect with individuals of various ages. As a communicator, Newton seeks to inspire others to be passionate and dedicated followers of Christ.
 
Sasser said attendees will be offered a free copy of Patterned, the disciple-making resource developed by N.C. Baptist leaders and released by the Baptist state convention this past summer.
 
Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend equipping sessions on how to use the Patterned resource effectively. More information on Patterned is available at patternedNC.org.
 

11/28/2016 4:48:49 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



‘Impact’ video resources now available

November 28 2016 by BSC Communications

Sermons and testimonial videos from this year’s Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Annual Meeting are now available on the N.C. Baptist Vimeo page. Search for the 2016 Annual Meeting channel at vimeo.com/ncbaptist.


There you will find sermons by outgoing BSC president Timmy Blair Sr., BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr., and International Mission Board President David Platt and more.
 
The theme of this year’s Annual Meeting was “Impact: Compelling the Lost to Come to Life” and was held Nov. 14-15 in Greensboro.
 
Blair, pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, challenged attendees to reach beyond the walls of the church to impact their communities for Christ in his president’s address to the convention. Blair preached a sermon titled “The Cries from the Ditches of Life” from Luke 10:25-36.
 
In his executive director-treasurer’s report, Hollifield preached from the Annual Meeting’s theme verse of Luke 14:23 and focused on encouraging attendees to reach out individuals who have been overlooked or avoided with the good news of the gospel.
 
Platt delivered this year’s convention sermon and shared three reasons why believers and churches must take the gospel to difficult and dangerous places around the world. In his sermon, Platt focused on the life of the apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 15.
 
Other videos that were shared during Annual Meeting are also available, which include testimonies of how different individuals and churches are making an impact in their communities for Christ with the gospel.
 

11/28/2016 4:45:00 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Dorothy Patterson: ‘God is working’ among N.C. women

November 28 2016 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

“I want you to have the time to invest in the lives of all your women,” said Dorothy Patterson, referring to church members. “They need your influence. They need your encouragement. They need your love.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Dorothy Patterson, professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, shares with the North Carolina Minister’s Wives Nov. 14. The annual event focused on encouraging wives of ministers, providing a place of worship and prayer. She encouraged women, whether married or single, to make their home a “welcoming, comforting place for your family.”


Patterson was addressing the North Carolina Baptist Minister’s Wives Nov. 14 at “Woman2Woman: The Importance of Spiritual Mentoring” prior to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting in Greensboro.
 
Patterson is a professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas, and wife of the school’s president, Paige Patterson. The couple served at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at Wake Forest for 11 years during the 1990s and early 2000s.
 
Based on Titus 2:3-5, Dorothy Patterson said there was much “meat [that] Paul has for us in this passage.”

She stressed the importance of sound doctrine.
 
“We’ve got so much floating around here with the dress of doctrine on it that is absolutely devastating, not only to individuals, but to the church of the living God,” she said. “You must study it, not just to teach it, but it’s also important for you to study for your own personal enrichment.”
 
She also encouraged ladies to have a personal library, building resources to help them further study the Bible.
 
When the verses refer to older women, Patterson said the original Greek points to a more spiritually mature person, not necessarily an old woman.
 
“If you’re young, don’t think you have to wait until you reach a certain age to mentor or to teach,” she said.
 
God wants a high level of character among His followers, Patterson said, maintaining reverence in behavior. “If you’re going to be training these young women, you must have a lifestyle that is fit for church living,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that you have to be in your Sunday best. It doesn’t mean that you have to be completely unfrazzled. It means you are acting in a Christ-like way in every response.”
 
She urged them to stay away from alcohol.
 
“God is working among the women of this great state,” said Patterson. That means “loving our husband [and children] even when it is difficult to love them.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Some of the North Carolina Minister’s Wives officers include, from left: Sandy Cooper, Western 1 representative; Megan Knight, president elect for 2017-2018; Betty Smith, publicity; Diane Smith, Central 1 representative; Dakota Spurling, 2017 retreat vice chair; Amy Harmon, 2016-2017 president; Cindy Johnson, 2017 retreat chair; Harriet Lovett, secretary/treasurer; and Candy McAnnelly, Eastern representative.


She talked about the importance of maintaining a sense of humor through all life has to offer.
 
One of the ministries at SWBTS is to give 75 women each semester a complete outfit along with accessories from a local department store. Each woman is paired with a mentor to help them pick something appropriate.
 
She encouraged women, married and single, to have a “welcoming, comforting place for your family” and friends.
 
She discouraged working outside the home when possible, but if it is necessary, she asked that women try to find something with a flexible schedule so she would be free to assist her family.
 
Titus 2 contains a word that many women balk at: submission. Patterson said this word does not mean an action that is forced, but instead it is that the wife chooses to be obedient.
 
“God chose the relationships in the home as the prototype of [His] relationship to us,” she said. “We have to choose to be obedient to the Lord.”
 
A wife and husband are meant to be a unit, working together, Patterson said.
 
Guarding the sanctity of homes remains a priority.
 
“We have no churches if we don’t have homes,” she said. “We don’t have community if we don’t have homes.”
 
God has placed each woman in a strategic place, Patterson said. “We see what women want,” she said. “We work with them where they are.”
 

Business

Harriett Lovett, secretary/treasurer and member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, said the organization was just under the budget allotted for the summer retreat and were “right on track to be on budget for this event.”
 
“Apart from the Bible, I’ve read her A Handbook for Minister’s Wives more than any other book that I own,” said Ginnie Varnam, the group’s outgoing president and member of Tar Heel Baptist Church in Tar Heel, of Patterson’s book that was included in each of the bags given to participants.
 
Representatives from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Embrace Women’s Ministry, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Women’s Life, Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina and the Biblical Recorder shared about their respective ministries.
 
Varnam served as 2015-2016 president, and Peggy Mooney of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Supply served as the 2015-2016 vice president. These were approved Nov. 14:
 
Officers:
2016-2017 president: Amy Harmon, Pittsboro Baptist Church, Pittsboro.
• 2016-2017 vice president: Beverly Williams, Pine Branch Baptist Church, Spruce Pine
2017-2018 president elect: Megan Knight, Dublin First Baptist Church
Secretary/treasurer: Harriet Lovett, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant
• Publicity: Betty Smith, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Fayetteville
• 2017 retreat chair: Cindy Johnson, Old Town Baptist Church, Winston-Salem
• 2017 retreat vice chair: Dakota Spurling, Freedom Biker Church, Conover
• 2018 retreat chair: Dottie Earwood, Journey Community Church, Eastover
 
Regional representatives:
• Central 1: Diane Smith, Jonesboro Heights Baptist Church, Sanford
• Central 2: Barbara Murdock, Clear Creek Baptist Church, Charlotte
• Eastern: Candy McAnelly, Spring Garden Baptist Church, New Bern
• Western 1: Sandy Cooper, South Fork Baptist Church, Todd
• Western 2: vacant
 

11/28/2016 4:40:00 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Thanksgiving sweetened by Baptist children’s homes

November 28 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In one Tennessee household, this year’s Thanksgiving table included an unusual centerpiece: the letters Y-E-S made of black pressed wood.

Submitted photo
Charla, right, will spend her first Thanksgiving with her forever family after being adopted by Jennifer, left, and her husband through the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.


With a new 10-year-old daughter in their house, Jennifer and Rusty placed the letters on their table as a reminder of what God does when believers say “yes” to His will without knowing precisely where He’s leading. For them, saying yes led to adopting a child through the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes (TBCH).
 
Jennifer, whose last name has not been disclosed by TBCH request, told Baptist Press (BP) her expanded family will “be the center of what we’re thankful for.”
 
Theirs is one of many stories of new and renewed families to emerge this fall from Baptist children’s homes affiliated with more than 20 Baptist state conventions. Among those stories also is a former drug addict in Arkansas spending her first sober Thanksgiving with a 7-year-old daughter and a New Mexico family who adopted two severely neglected sisters in October.
 

‘The one for you’

Jennifer and Rusty’s journey toward adoption began 12 years ago when they married knowing they probably could not have biological children because of damage to Jennifer’s body caused by cancer treatments in her early 20s. Yet after a decade of marriage, they each began praying independently for a child.
 
During their season of prayer, Jennifer and Rusty heard a revival preacher who told believers figuratively to “put your yes on the table” before God, assuring Him of obedience no matter where He leads. The message was so striking that they purchased their pressed wood letters and literally laid them on the dining room table – with a sense that saying yes somehow applied to their desire for children.

Submitted photo
“I never realized how good it would feel to hear somebody call me daddy,” Rusty, right, said of his daughter Charla.


Within a year, an opportunity arose to open their home periodically to a TBCH resident named Charla who did not have any family members to visit during designated off-campus holidays like Easter and spring break. As the relationship blossomed, “we just really felt like God was telling us, ’Charla’s the one for you,’” Jennifer said.
 
So they took Charla into their home for a full two weeks last Christmas, then every weekend from January through May. She became their foster child in May, and now they are in the process of attempting to gain legal custody.
 
Since joining the family, Charla has made progress academically, socially and spiritually, Jennifer said. After professing faith in Christ as her Lord and Savior at the children’s home last summer, Charla is learning to pray and worship in her new home.
 
Though the journey has challenged their family at times, Jennifer recently overheard her husband tell someone, “I never realized how good it would feel to hear somebody call me daddy.“
 

‘Everything is being restored’

Jill, a resident at the Jonesboro Family Care Home of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH), will be celebrating her first drug-free and sober Thanksgiving of her 7-year-old daughter’s life.
 
Jill, 29, has been battling alcohol and drug abuse since high school. She graduated from a Christian-based rehab program in August, however, and now is living with her daughter Laela in an ABCH program designed to teach her life skills and nurture the personal relationship with Christ she began last year.
 
“I’m thankful for my sobriety,” Jill, whose last name has not been disclosed by ABCH request, told BP. “I’m thankful to be saved ... God saved me, and I have a new way of thinking. I can actually be happy now. Everything is being restored with my family.”
 
Growing up in a tumultuous and subsequently broken family, Jill began drinking as a teenager. Her habit progressed to include marijuana and later harder drugs. Even Laela’s birth, with no father in the picture, did not drive Jill to sobriety. In fact, by babysitting virtually anytime Jill requested it, her mother unintentionally enabled her substance abuse.
 
“I wanted to be involved in my daughter’s life but couldn’t function if I didn’t get high,” Jill said.
 
Finally, desperation yielded the courage to enter rehab in August 2015. Within a week, she repented of her sin, committed her life to Christ and was baptized. Jill is not sure whether her repentance marked her salvation or the renewal of a relationship with Christ she began earlier in life.
 
Upon graduation from rehab a year later, Jill discovered the ABCH’s program for struggling single moms and their children, entering in September. Now she is working a steady job and considering entry to the dental hygienist field.
 
“I prayed for a place for my daughter and I to be able to be together and get back on our feet,” Jill said. The Family Care Home “is just perfect. This is what we needed.”
 

‘A bountiful blessing’

In New Mexico, Thanksgiving week will mark the one-month anniversary of two sisters being adopted into their “forever family,” according to a news release from the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries (NMBCHFM).
 
The unnamed girls “were severely neglected when taken from their home several years ago, requiring significant help to navigate their past trauma,” the NMBCHFM release stated.
 
After working with “a couple of higher-level care organizations” and experiencing multiple failed adoption attempts, the sisters found themselves at the NMBCHFM campus in Portales, N.M.
 
“They folded nicely into our home as they made friends, got involved in church, embraced their new home and instantly became a part of the NMBCHFM family,” the release stated. “They fell in love with the campus, the people and the animals in the 4H program.”
 
Soon they were connected with a nearby couple who had been struggling with infertility and praying for daughters.
 
“On Oct. 21, 2016, the girls left the NMBCHFM and went home with their new family,” the release stated. “We were blessed to be a part of God’s plan to help bring this family together. A common custom when children find a forever family is a small candle-lighting ceremony to mark the children’s journey. Milestones, represented by lit candles, will continue to burn even as the final candle is lit in representation of their new family.”
 
The NMBCHFM’s assessment of that family applies equally to all the families united and reunited by Baptist children’s homes this fall: “No doubt Thanksgiving will hold whole new meaning for this family – what a bountiful blessing!”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/28/2016 9:19:19 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Court blocks federal plan to extend overtime protections

November 23 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

A U.S. District Court judge has blocked the White House’s plan to extend overtime labor protections that were scheduled to take effect Dec. 1. In his Nov. 22 ruling, Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the Eastern District of Texas, said President Barack Obama's administration exceeded its authority by raising the overtime eligibility limit and including an automatic updating mechanism every three years.
 
Currently, salaried workers making less than $23,660 are entitled to overtime protections. The blocked federal changes would have increased that threshold to $47,476.
 
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced earlier this year that it was updating overtime regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to “simplify and modernize” the rules.
 
The president said regulations “have not kept up with our modern economy” and “millions of Americans lack the protections of overtime and even the right to minimum wage.”
 
The current salary threshold covers an estimated 7 percent of full-time salaried workers, according to the DOL, down from 62 percent in 1975.
 
“We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans,” the DOL said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The department’s overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.”
 
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of 21 states, Nevada vs. United States Department of Labor, which was consolidated with a legal challenge filed by more than 50 businesses.
 
Many organizations had already begun the process of making necessary changes to ensure compliance with the new rule before the judge issued the preliminary injunction.
 
GuideStone Financial Resources (guidestone.org), the financial services auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention, posted an overview of the now-defunct changes to its website Oct. 17, outlining how the overtime rules apply to ministries.
 
The document said, “It’s likely that all businesses – including ministries – will be affected by this change.”
 
The regulations would not have entitled pastors to time-and-a-half pay for labor over 40 hours, based on judicial and regulatory precedents, but many church support staff and other employees of religious organizations would have qualified.

Related stories:
Churches can't ignore new overtime pay regulations
New overtime pay rule could affect church staff

11/23/2016 2:12:08 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Grief & prayer after Tennessee school bus tragedy

November 23 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

When police chaplain and Southern Baptist pastor Anthony Baker arrived at the hospital hours after an elementary school bus accident killed five and injured 32 others, he picked up crayons and joined distraught children coloring scenes on paper.

WRCV TV Chattanooga screen capture
Five students died and 32 others were injured when a school bus veered off the road and was impaled by a tree around 3:30 p.m. Nov. 21 in Chattanooga, Tenn.


A school bus driver himself for the past 16 years, Baker was uniquely positioned to minister to those awaiting word on their loved ones at the T.C. Thompson campus of Erlanger Children’s Hospital Nov. 21 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
 
“Sometimes when the world is falling apart, coloring makes you think we can put things together and make it look good,” Baker told a sixth grade boy. “[The student] nodded his head, and so we sat down there and started coloring.”
 
Coloring distracted the children who were worried after a bus carrying their friends from Woodmore Elementary School veered off a residential road, clipped a mailbox and utility pole, landed on its side and was impaled through its center by a tree around 3:30 p.m. Five children died at the scene – including a kindergartener, a first grader and three fourth graders. Of the 32 taken to area hospitals, 12 were hospitalized – six in intensive care – and 20 were treated and released.
 
Baker, immediate past pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Chattanooga, is one of many Southern Baptist leaders ministering to the tearful community after the one-vehicle accident, Hamilton County Baptist Association (HCBA) Director of Missions Dennis Culbreth told Baptist Press (BP).
 
“All of the pastors I’ve talked to have just been brokenhearted about this, even if they don’t know the families or children,” Culbreth said. “It seems to be a time where churches are working together to see what we can do.”
 
Mt. Canaan Baptist Church pastor Ternae Jordan said one of his members, whom he identified as Deborah, lost a fourth-grade grandchild in the accident, and other members lost relatives. He spent much of the night ministering to those grieving at the hospital, and to students and teachers at school this morning.
 
“I didn’t realize that Deborah was involved until the latter part of the night because we were ministering to so many families,” Jordan told BP today. “It was a horrific scene at the hospital with all of the parents and families being told that their child did not survive. Last night was probably one of the worst scenes that you could ever expect, watching the pain and the hurt of family members.”

Photo by Steve Pearson
Ridgedale Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., hosted a community prayer service after a school bus accident that killed five and injured 32 others.


He described Woodmore as a close-knit community, and said area pastors responded in great numbers after the tragedy.
 
“The body of Christ really showed up last night. There were pastors and prayer teams from throughout the community that were there serving and showing the love of Christ,” Jordan said. “That’s one of the most memorable things about last night.”
 
The HCBA has called pastors of its 107 congregations to meet Nov. 22 at 5 p.m. at New Monumental Baptist Church (National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.), Culbreth said.
 
“I’ll leave [the meeting] as the director of missions with a plan of action of how we can coordinate together to minister to these families and … work together and plan together the best plan of action for our churches,” Culbreth said. “I’ve just sent an email out to our pastors and staff encouraging them to be there. I think this could be a way that our churches could have an impact on the community … to be salt and light.”
 
Ridgedale Baptist Church, pastored by Doug Plumlee, hosted a community prayer service Nov. 22 at noon; a second prayer service was held at 6 p.m. at New Monumental, pastored by Roderick L. Ware and located about a mile from Woodmore Elementary.
 
Among Southern Baptists participating in outreach are Bayside Baptist Church pastor Eric Stitts and Dallas Bay Baptist global outreach pastor Aaron Goccia.
 
The tragedy was reported nationwide. In Nashville, Tennessee Baptist Convention executive director Randy Davis expressed grief at the tragedy and encouraged Christians to pray for everyone impacted.
 
“I’ve been praying for them and encourage Tennessee Baptists and Southern Baptists to continue to pray for the children who are still injured in the hospital,” Davis told BP. “I’m praying for pastors as they minister, and I’m praying for those families who don’t have a church home that some Christian in some way can help them. This just reminds us how fleeting life is, and why it is so important for us to reach everyone with the gospel, especially this youngest generation.“
 
Baker also pointed out the mortality of life and the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus before being faced with tragedy.
 
“No matter how long you live, you never live long enough. These children that died at 7 or 8 years old, they didn’t live long enough. But when you’re 90 and you die, somebody’s always wishing you’d lived a little longer,” Baker said. “You never live long enough, and so you have to take advantage of whatever you’re given by God, and cherish it no matter how long you’re given. Life is precious and you just cannot take it for granted, even in the safest of conditions.”
 
Baker was among several chaplains who prayed with hospital employees and those grieving in waiting rooms, many of whom had not yet learned of their children’s fate. Many of the families were hopeless, angry and distraught, he said.
 
“We want them to understand [salvation] before things like this happen,” he said. “I want them to have faith in Christ. I want them to know that even though this life is over, they [can] have hope of another [in Christ].“
 
Baker took the tragedy personally, he said.
 
“While at the same time that I’m trying to comfort people, I’m as a bus driver trying to reassure people that … school buses are safe and the bus drivers do care,” he said. “I care about my children. I would die for my kids. When I’m on my bus, I don’t care who those kids are; they’re my children. I take it very personally what happens to those kids.”
 
Driving his bus this morning, the first thing on his mind was safety, Baker told BP. He’s in charge of 60-70 children on his normal routes, including elementary and high school students.
 
Chattanooga police charged 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, employed by Durham School Services and the driver of the wrecked bus, with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. The names of the victims had not been released.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

11/23/2016 11:48:21 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Platt livestream cites thanksgiving as IMB’s aim

November 23 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Thanksgiving is among the central aims of missions.
 
That was International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt’s assertion in a Nov. 21 Thanksgiving livestream event that included an update on the IMB’s financial status and interviews with personnel serving overseas.

IMB screen capture
International Mission Board President David Platt, right, led a Nov. 21 Thanksgiving livestream event that included an update on the IMB’s financial status and interviews with personnel serving overseas, including Rose, whose family has served in East Asia for about 20 years.


“When we go and proclaim the gospel and people receive the grace of God ... they will give thanks to God for His grace, and He will receive glory through that,” Platt said, basing his comments on 2 Corinthians 4:15, a theme verse for the presentation.
 
A lack of thanksgiving to God is a major problem among people who have never heard the gospel, Platt continued, citing Romans 1:21, turning to Psalm 67’s depiction of thankful worship by those who have heard God’s Word and believed as the ultimate end of missions.
 
Platt called the past 12-18 months a challenging season for the “IMB family,” presumably a reference to the board’s reduction of 1,132 missionaries and stateside staff for financial reasons. Platt added, however, that he is “happy to announce” a balanced budget for 2017 and an anticipated increase in missionaries on the field next year.
 
Southern Baptists pray, give and go to the nations, Platt said, “so that more and more and more men and women and boys and girls know the resurrected Christ.”
 
Among the ways God has worked internationally in recent months, Platt said, is by saving a 74-year-old Muslim imam in West Africa through an IMB missionary’s witness and by saving a woman in Southeast Asia who received relief from involuntary thrashing and “frothing at the mouth” following prayer by a local believer.
 
Live interviews with IMB missionaries yielded additional testimonies of God’s work across the globe. For security reasons, none of the missionaries’ last names was revealed.
 
Ross, who has served in Eastern Europe for nine years, told of distributing Bibles for the first time among an unreached people group and seeing God provide a pastor for a church plant.
 
Southern Baptist workers and national partners in Eastern Europe need prayer for boldness, Ross said, because “we’re seeing that just in the last few months, laws changed to make it more difficult to be about evangelism, church planting work [and] discipleship in that part of the world.”
 
Rose, who has served 20 years in East Asia, told of a missions-sending movement among East Asian believers. She requested prayer “that the flames would continue to be fanned and that more [East Asian missionaries] would be raised up to partner with our believers there to be sent out to impact that vast lostness in East Asia.”
 
Ben, who has worked with Jewish people for 30 years, said there are more Jewish followers of Jesus in Israel today “than there have been since the first century.” He also told of a graduate-level theology program in which Jewish and Arab Christians are studying God’s Word together and experiencing “real reconciliation.”
 
Ben asked Southern Baptists to “remind God” in prayer “of the promises He’s made to Israel and the promises He’s made to the Jewish people and the promises He’s made to the nations, that once again His Word would go out and would be effective.”
 
The livestream event included repeated thanks to Southern Baptists for their giving through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
 
A prerecorded video featured insights from retired IMB missionaries who, Platt said, “have faithfully served for years” and “have over the last year made transitions to serving in different ways.”
 
The livestream event is archived at livestream.com/accounts/1793571/Thanksgiving/videos/142447199.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/23/2016 11:39:10 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Why celebrate the Reformation after nearly 500 years?

November 23 2016 by Ben Hawkins, Missouri Pathway

Had he used a hammer, one could perhaps say that its sound would reverberate across Europe and, eventually, across the globe.

Painting by Ferdinand Pauwels, 1872
Luther posting his 95 theses in 1517.


But it’s not fully certain that Martin Luther carried a hammer when, on Oct. 31, 1517, he approached the Castle Church in the small university town of Wittenberg, Germany, where he served as both priest and professor. Luther may have used paste, according to Reformation scholar Andrew Pettegree at the University of St. Andrews, when he posted a set of 95 Theses for public debate on the church door, which served at the time as a community-wide bulletin board.
 
Earlier that fall, Luther had introduced 97 different – though related – theses to faculty members at the university, and he was met then with some lively discussion from interested scholars and, no doubt, yawns from others.
 
But not so with his 95 Theses of Oct. 31. Soon, these declarations from Luther’s pen would go to print not only in Latin, the professional language of churchmen and academics, but also in the languages of the common folk – with sometimes revolutionary results.
 
These pungent theses criticized abuses of church power – especially the pope’s attempt to raise funds for renovating St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by guaranteeing salvation to all who would simply donate to the building project. “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs,” Johann Tetzel, a famed seller of the pope’s salvific guarantees (called “indulgences“), preached as he made his rounds throughout Germany.
 
In the 95 Theses, Luther decried such cheapening of God’s grace, which distorted and watered down the message of salvation merely to collect cash. Instead, he insisted that the Christian life should be filled with repentance and that the “true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.”
 
“Christians,” he wrote in his final two theses, “should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their head, through penalties, death and hell; and thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace.”
 
Whether Luther fastened his message to the Wittenberg church door in 1517 with nails or glue, his message has stuck with us for centuries.
 
In fact, Christians across the globe will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation that Luther started next year on Oct. 31. But, perhaps for many Christians, the question remains, “Why?” What is this Reformation? Why does it matter for people living in the 21st century? And, most importantly, what did God have to do with it?
 
Of course, no one can sufficiently answer these questions without delving into the complexities of history, searching out the story of the Reformation for oneself.
 
As Baptist church historian A.H. Newman wrote more than a century ago, any attempt to describe the workings of God during the Reformation defies simple explanation. “And here we must remember,” Newman writes, “that the cause of God on Earth progresses not in straight lines like a railroad train across yonder prairie, but like yonder tossing ship on yonder surging ocean.”
 
Likewise, any serious investigation into the lives and doctrines of the Reformers – men like Martin Luther, Martin Bucer, Huldrych Zwingli or John Calvin – should at least cure Baptists of “blind hero-worship.” After all, as Newman writes, these very same Reformers who proclaimed Christian liberty “would not have hesitated to urge our extermination by fire, sword, or water, if we had been their contemporaries” – simply because we deny infant baptism and teach that water baptism should not precede a profession of faith.
 
Here we must remember that God often works through us in spite of ourselves. Newman reminds us that, “owing to the perversity of men,” God’s cause does not make “clear and constant progress,” although it indeed progresses. “Sometimes it seems to lose ground; but, after all, the apparent loss is transmuted by divine alchemy into means of future gain.” And this should be an encouragement for us, as we maneuver the difficulties of our own age.
 
Luther himself, who tended to see human efforts not only as vain but also often as a joke, recognized that God alone could advance His cause. For this reason, he once quipped that he had done nothing at all to make the Reformation succeed.
 
“I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing,” Luther said, as reported by Timothy George in Theology of the Reformers. “And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip [Melanchthon] and my [Nicolaus von] Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.”
 
And, perhaps, this is ultimately why we should celebrate Luther and the rest of the Reformers, for they trusted scripture to make an impact in their age. Despite numerous obstacles, they endeavored to publish it widely both in print and proclamation. And, without nails or glue, God’s Word has continued to stick with us for centuries, resounding across the globe. Such was the core truth of the 16th-century Reformation, and such should be the crux of all our endeavors: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ben Hawkins is associate editor The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. The Pathway, like Baptist Press, will be among the many evangelical publications exploring the history of the Reformation during the coming year.)
 
11/23/2016 11:35:10 AM by Ben Hawkins, Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments



Mom sues to regain parental rights over transgender teen

November 23 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

A Minnesota mother has filed a lawsuit in federal court to re-establish her parental rights after a legal aid attorney declared her minor son emancipated from his parents last year. The suit contends the emancipation letter allowed her then-16-year-old son to receive public assistance, which he used to begin hormone treatments for gender-transition therapy.
 
Minnesota law regarding the emancipation of minors – when a minor is legally declared independent of parents – is inconsistent with the state’s other parental rights laws, said Erik Kaardal, attorney for the mother, Anmarie Calgaro. The lawsuit claims Calgaro’s federal right of due process was denied when the legal aid attorney declared her son emancipated. It was months before she could determine why she was barred from accessing her son’s school and medical records and why she had no say in his life-altering medical treatment.
 
“Anmarie has lost complete control of her teenage son without any court proceedings or court hearings,” Kaardal told reporters at a press conference today in Duluth, Minn.
 
Calgaro told reporters she knew her son struggled with his gender identity and wanted to attend a different high school, so she agreed to let him move in with his father. The parents are divorced and have joint custody. Shortly after moving to his father’s in 2015, the teen, who was not named in court documents, moved out, eventually getting an apartment of his own.
 
Minnesota statute allows minors living independent of their parents to seek emancipation. But the low standard for declaring emancipation runs afoul of state custody law and federal due-process laws, Kaardal said.
 
“In a marital dissolution proceeding, if we are terminating rights of a parent without notifying the parents, you would all be horrified,” Kaardal told reporters.
 
In October 2015, Calgaro’s son petitioned a county court to change his name to a female name. He tried again in January in a different county. Both courts denied the petition because he did not have parental permission or a court order demonstrating his emancipation.
 
Kaardal noted the incongruity.
 
“He was able to get medical consent for life-changing treatments,” he said. “But then when it came to a name change in both the counties, the judge said, you don’t have a court order of emancipation and you haven’t given notice to your parents.”
 
But with the letter from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid declaring his emancipation, he was able to receive financial assistance from St. Louis County, including Medicaid, which he used to begin transition therapy without his parents’ knowledge or consent.
 
Kaardal told me he does not know who guided the teen through the legal hoops required to attain emancipation, public assistance and life-altering medical treatment. One county court document noted two unnamed witnesses appeared with the teen when he petitioned for the name change. Kaardal did not know if the minor has received counseling
 
The lawsuit names as defendants St. Louis County and its Interim Director of Public Health and Human Services Linnea Mirsch; Fairview Health Services; Park Nicollet Health Services; St. Louis County School District; Michael Johnson, principal of the Cherry School; and Calgaro’s son.
 
Park Nicollet has provided sex-change treatment for the minor, while Fairview has prescribed “narcotics” – all without the consent or knowledge of his mother, the suit alleges.
 
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and a declaratory judgment that Calgaro’s due-process rights were violated when the defendants treated her son as an emancipated minor without a court order. She also seeks an injunction preventing the defendants from any similar treatment of her minor children should they, too, be deemed emancipated by the defendants.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

11/23/2016 11:28:50 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Plateaued church shifts focus, maintains CP support

November 23 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Fresno, Calif., had reached a plateau. In the words of pastor Greg Roper, the church had become inwardly focused, maintaining “what used to be” and ministering only to themselves.

Submitted photo
Trinity Southern Baptist Church of Fresno, Calif., helps build a home in Mexico as part of its 2016 missions outreach with Amor Ministries based in San Diego.


Despite continued strength in attendance, active participation in church programs and international mission trips, Roper and other leaders determined about three years ago the congregation was only growing inward and needed to refocus.
 
“We’ve been changing the purpose of what we are as a church. We have been deliberately changing things from maintenance focused to outward focused so we can make disciples who make disciples,” Roper told Baptist Press (BP). “We want to be a biblically healthy church. As we began to look at that more and more, we realized our vision and focus had to change to recapture the heart of the gospel.”
 
A community-wide “Touch a Truck” event that allowed youth to interact with first responders this past summer is just one of the ways the church is reaching out, engaging with its north Fresno neighborhood. Youth were able to climb over and play on the trucks of first responders, while police, fire, disaster relief and other personnel talked with them and their parents. The first-time event was coupled with an antique and specialty car show and drew about 300 people to the six-acre campus.
 
Now about half-way through the re-envisioning process, Trinity Southern Baptist Church has changed nearly every aspect of the church’s ministry except for its giving to missions through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ way of cooperating in the financial support of local, national and international missions.
 
Trinity Southern Baptist Church has almost always in its history given more than 10 percent of its income through the Cooperative Program. In the last few years it has reached 11 percent. In all, nearly 20 percent of the church’s undesignated income goes for Great Commission causes through Southern Baptists.
 
“It’s not only the tradition of our church,” Roper said. “Our people understand the principle of doing together cooperatively what we can’t do just as a single church.”
 
Church members are generous about giving to missions, Roper said, noting their support of the California State Missions Offering, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the North American missions.

Submitted photo
Youth from Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Fresno, Calif., participate in sporting events with other youth at the Jenness Park Christian Camp in Cold Springs, Calif.


In the congregation’s focus on outward growth and ministry, leaders called in Paul Borden, a consultant with the nonprofit Growing Healthy Churches. In Borden’s July 2015 report of his findings to the church, he listed five strengths and five concerns.
 
Excellent preaching, a desire for change, abundant resources, a strong desire to reach the community and an appreciation of evangelism were counted as strengths, with Borden noting among resources the church’s excellent history, updated facilities, abundance of space, lack of debt and about 300 members.
 
“The congregation for the most part understands it is to be evangelizing and reaching out to lost people, even though such is not happening regularly or with any consistency,” according to Borden’s report. Spiritual disobedience by not reaching out in evangelism, no clear mission or vision statement, a lack of accountability for leaders, a lack of prioritizing key ministries, and a lack of strategic and tactical planning were noted as areas of concern.
Steps already in place to return to spiritual health include revising the church’s bylaws, its organizational structure and the mindset of its members.
 
“We’re changing the focus of every ministry of the church,” Roper said. “Every ministry needs to think outside itself, outside the people of the church. We’re trying to impress upon our people to start home Bible studies, have community events in their neighborhood [and] involve their friends and coworkers in activities.”
 
For example, when the church softball team plays, a guest is encouraged to attend for each member.

Greg Roper


“It’s just a sort of radical reformation of the church in order to break out of the plateau of a 60-year-old church in a rapidly-changing demographic,” Roper said. “Our plan is we want to – in the ministry of the church and in the staff of the church – to look more like the community.”
 
The church is in an older part of north central Fresno that has transitioned from middle-class Anglo to a less-affluent and multi-cultural community. And the congregation remains committed to its current location.
 
“We want to stay in this community and make disciples in order to be obedient to the Great Commission,” Roper said. “The Christian life is to be a life of appreciation, gratitude, and I think that gratitude turns to a true desire to see the glory of God that is revealed through the obedience of the church.”
 
For many years Trinity Southern Baptist has provided space for a Cambodian congregation of Southern Baptists, and in 2015 a new Spanish-language Southern Baptist congregation started onsite. A Bible Study Fellowship group of about 300 women meets every Monday evening at the church. An Alcoholics Anonymous group meets monthly.
 
About 10 years ago, the church sent out several members to start a new congregation across town, and is in the fourth year of helping sponsor the Anthology Church plant in Studio City, a film and television industry town that is under-churched in southern California.
 
The church gave at least 300 backpacks filled with school supplies to Viking Elementary School, next door to the church, and allows the school to use church facilities when needed.
 
Members several times a year provide a noon meal for teachers as a way of saying “thank you” to them. At least the last four years, the school has hosted an after-school Bible club for youngsters who have a permission slip signed by their parent.
 
“We also let people in the community know there’s the freedom of using the property,” Roper said. “We want to get people from the community onto the property, and then bridge them to something at church.”
 
It could be children’s or youth programming, or a variety of activities for adults.
 
“We realize every church has to continually be re-envisioning, to keep up with the heart of the gospel,” Roper said. “As we move past this plateau we were on, our focus is on disciples making disciples. That’s our mission statement; that’s what God has told us to do.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/23/2016 11:08:05 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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