November 2017

Survey: Billy Graham continues far-reaching legacy

November 28 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

In the fall of 1949, a little-known Baptist preacher launched a series of revival meetings at a “canvas cathedral” in Los Angeles at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Hill Street.

Billy Graham


The meetings were supposed to last three weeks. Instead they continued for eight weeks, drawing more than 300,000 people and making Billy Graham a household name.
 
Nearly 70 years later, the 99-year-old Graham remains one of the best-known preachers in America, according to a survey by Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
 
Half of Protestant churchgoers in America (48 percent) have seen one of his sermons on television while 1 in 10 (11 percent) attended one of his revivals, known as crusades.
 
If you go to a Protestant church, chances are you know of Billy Graham, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
 
“We’d be hard-pressed to find another American Christian leader who has that kind of name recognition,” McConnell said.
 
The survey of 1,000 churchgoers – those who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month – found Graham has had widespread influence.
 
Two-thirds of those surveyed had some contact with Graham’s ministry, according to the LifeWay data:

  • 48 percent watched a Billy Graham sermon on television.
  • 18 percent listened to one of his sermons on the radio.
  • 15 percent read one of his books.
  • 14 percent read a Billy Graham newspaper column.
  • 11 percent attended a Billy Graham crusade.
  • 8 percent watched a Billy Graham sermon online.

 
A third of churchgoers had not interacted with Graham’s ministry in person, in print or through television, radio or the internet. Four percent say they “have no idea who Billy Graham is.”
 
Churchgoers who are 18 to 34 (16 percent) are most likely not to know who Graham is. Only 1 percent of those 35 and older don’t know who he is.
 
Older churchgoers have the most interaction with Graham’s ministry. Three-quarters (74 percent) of Protestant churchgoers 65 and older have seen one of his sermons on television as have 57 percent of those ages 50 to 64.
 
Nineteen percent of Protestant churchgoers 65 and older – and 14 percent of those 50 to 64 – say they’ve been to a Graham crusade.
 
Baptist (14 percent) and nondenominational churchgoers (12 percent) are most likely to have gone to a Graham crusade. Lutherans (3 percent) are least likely.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 

Methodology:

LifeWay Research conducted the study Aug. 22–30, 2017, using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. People in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not already have internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
 
For this survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. Protestant and nondenominational adults (18 and older) who attend religious services once a month or more often was selected from the KnowledgePanel. Sample stratification and base weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, home ownership, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. Study-specific weights included gender by age, race/ethnicity, region and education to reflect GSS 2016 data. The completed sample is 1,010 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.)
 

11/28/2017 9:49:55 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments



Daughter joins mother in Mission:Dignity gratitude

November 28 2017 by Rebekah Hardage, GuideStone Financial Resources

Growing up as a preacher’s daughter, Estela Rangel had only one request of her husband David when they married: “Never become a pastor.” As a child, she had felt pressure to be perfect in the eyes of the church, and she wanted a different life as an adult.

GuideStone Financial Resources photo
A thankful daughter and mother, both widows of pastors with meager finances, see Mission:Dignity as evidencing God’s promise to “never leave us or forsake us,” said Estela Rangel, left, with her mother Josefa de La Rosa, “and that is the most wonderful feeling.”


“But God had His plans,” Estela said.
 
After five years of marriage, David began to talk with her about the call he felt to become a pastor.

The two were volunteering in the bus ministry of the Hispanic mission church where Estela’s father was the pastor, and David felt a pull on his heart to pursue fulltime ministry.
 
“I know that without your help, I won’t get anywhere,” David told Estela.
 
“So, I agreed to support him but not wholeheartedly,” Estela admitted.
 
The Rangels served for five years before Estela felt as though she had fully surrendered to her life as a pastor’s wife. “I realized that I had to stop asking, ‘What are people going to say and think about me?’ and start asking, ‘What is God going to do and how can I be a part of it?’”
 
But not long after Estela began to embrace her call to ministry as a pastor’s wife, David chose to step away from pastoring for a time. The Rangels knew that if they were going to lead a church, they both needed to be all in.
 
When the time came to return to the pastorate, they promised one another – and the Lord – they would give 100 percent.
 
“It’s like we read in the Old Testament, ‘Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. ... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15, NKJV).”
 
And that they did. Estela and David faithfully ministered for 35 years, starting four Spanish-speaking churches and taking numerous mission trips to both Guatemala and Mexico before he died in 2014.

“God gave my husband the heart of a pastor, and even when he was sick, he never let his illness keep him from serving God,” Estela said.
 
After David passed away, Estela was faced with the financial burden of covering a mortgage and other bills on her own.
 
Feeling like she had nowhere to turn, Estela remembered David contacting Mission:Dignity on behalf of her mother, Josefa de La Rosa. Since 2006, Josefa has received a monthly grant to help cover expenses from the ministry to retired pastors and their widows by GuideStone Financial Resources. Estela reached out in hopes that she could be assisted as well.
 
Not long after applying, Estela learned that she would soon receive a monthly grant from Mission:Dignity. Now, both mother and daughter are able to worry less about making ends meet.
 
While Estela and Josefa both miss their husbands, they see signs of God’s faithfulness every day. In fact, just last spring, six generations of their family joined together to celebrate Josefa’s 90th birthday.
 
Reflecting on the life she wasn’t sure she wanted, Estela is thankful that she trusted in, and ultimately surrendered to, God’s plan.
 
“God promises He will never leave us or forsake us,” she said, “and that is the most wonderful feeling.”
 
Mission:Dignity, online at missiondignity.org, provides financial assistance to more than 1,800 retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers and their widows in need of additional resources to cover housing, food and medical expenses.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebekah Hardage is manager of content marketing for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Commission. Reprinted with permission from GuideStone magazine.)

11/28/2017 9:34:48 AM by Rebekah Hardage, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



Former fire chief Cochran’s rights aired in court

November 28 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A federal court is weighing not only former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran’s right to express his beliefs but the right of others as well, religious liberty advocates say.

Photo by Adam Covington
Kelvin Cochran


Federal Judge Leigh Martin May heard arguments Nov. 17 in Atlanta regarding the city’s 2015 firing of Cochran. The city terminated Cochran, now a staff member of a Southern Baptist church, after he wrote a men’s devotional book that advocated in a brief section the biblical view of marriage and sexuality, including that homosexual behavior is immoral.
 
Cochran has requested that Judge May issue a summary judgment in his favor, while the city of Atlanta has asked the same for itself. At the hearing, May indicated a jury trial is likely in the spring on the issues she may not decide in a ruling she expects to issue in December, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
 
The case is among of a mounting number involving employees or business owners whose religious convictions about such issues as same-sex marriage and homosexuality clash with the viewpoint of the government.
 
Southern Baptist religious freedom advocate Russell Moore said Cochran’s case “should be of concern to every American, not just to those of us who are believers.”
 
“The government should not be in the business of firing people from their jobs simply because they have religious convictions,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in written comments for Baptist Press (BP). “This heavy-handed bullying of Chief Cochran, if let stand, could end up harming countless numbers of people who hold beliefs that are not approved by the government at the time.”
 
Kevin Theriot – the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel who represented Cochran in the hearing – told BP in an email interview, “This is a very significant case for all people of faith because if Chief Cochran loses, it means people of all faiths who believe in biblical marriage can be discriminated against by the government.”
 
Theriot, in an earlier written release, had noted, “A religious or ideological test can’t be used to fire a public servant, but that’s what the city did, as the facts of this case clearly demonstrate.
 
“Chief Cochran is one of the most accomplished fire chiefs in the nation, but the city’s actions place every city employee in jeopardy who may hold to a belief that city officials don’t like,” Theriot said.
 
The city argued that Cochran’s viewpoint was not the primary basis for his firing, saying the fire chief violated its policy in publishing the book, according to The Journal-Constitution. ADF, however, contends comments by city officials demonstrate the book’s viewpoint was the reason for Cochran’s termination.
 
Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan told The Journal-Constitution when Cochran was suspended prior to his firing, “First and foremost, I respect each individual’s right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you’re a city employee, and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.”
 
A lawyer for the city said in court that Cochran listed his fire department title in the book without permission and failed to inform the city of its publication, The Journal-Constitution reported. Cochran says a city official verbally approved both the publication of the book and the use of his title in the book, which he wrote on his own time.
 
The city’s requirement that employees obtain approval before writing a book is clearly unconstitutional, Theriot said.
 
The city conducted an investigation but found Cochran had not discriminated against anyone stemming from his religious beliefs, according to ADF.
 
ADF is hopeful May will grant summary judgment to Cochran regarding his free speech and free exercise of religion claims “because the city has admitted it considered his religious speech when suspending and firing him,” Theriot told BP, saying he is confident the judge will issue “a very well-reason opinion.”
 
After the hearing, Cochran said the city is “unjustly accusing” him of the very thing – discrimination – he has experienced and been committed to eliminate in his profession.
 
“It is still unthinkable to me that the very faith and patriotism that inspired my professional achievements and drove me to treat all people with love and equity is what the government ultimately used to bring my dream career to an end,” Cochran said in written remarks prepared for a post-hearing news conference.
 
“In my life I have experienced firsthand the negative attitudes, racial slurs and discrimination because of the color of my skin,” Cochran said. “Because of that, I’ve lived by the conviction that, should I ever be in a position of leadership, that I would never allow someone to have the same experience of discrimination I did as a minority.”
 
In that vein, Cochran said he created the Atlanta Fire Rescue Doctrine to establish “a culture of justice and equity” and to seek to remove “racism, sexism, favoritism, cronyism, anything that would interfere with a wholesome work environment for any people group within the fire department.”
 
Cochran is chief operating officer of Elizabeth Baptist Church, a multi-site church in the Atlanta area.
 
He served on the Resolutions Committee at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention meeting and presented a resolution affirming Southern Baptists’ commitment to biblical sexuality and urging protection for religious free exercise. Messengers approved the resolution.
 
Cochran was one of the first African Americans to serve with the Shreveport (La.) Fire Department and became its fire chief. He became Atlanta’s fire chief before President Barack Obama appointed him as U.S. Fire Administrator. He returned to Atlanta and served as its fire chief for five years before his termination.
 
The legalization of same-sex marriage has resulted in clashes between the rights of wedding vendors – such as cake designers, florists and photographers – and those of gay couples.
 
The first case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the growing legal skirmish between religious liberty and sexual liberty will be argued Dec. 5. The case involves Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop.
 
Phillips, who is a Christian, declined to design and decorate a cake for the wedding of two men because of his belief that marriage is only between a male and a female. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to create custom cakes for same-sex ceremonies or quit designing wedding cakes, and the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s decision.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

11/28/2017 8:58:29 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



BR giveaway winners named

November 28 2017 by BR staff

The Biblical Recorder (BR) gave away prizes during the recent Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting.
 
The grand prize was a software package from Olive Tree Bible Software (olivetree.com). Olive Tree provides basic software for free via its website for smartphones, tablets and computers. Packages are available for a cost. The BR was able to award Joe Ervin the “Bible Study Premier Edition” and “The C.H. Spurgeon Collection.” The premier edition contains 16 tools including a Bible dictionary, reference tools, maps and atlases. The Spurgeon collection includes 103 volumes of his works. Ervin lives in Forest City and is student pastor at Campfield Memorial Baptist Church in Ellenboro.
 
Three Christian Standard Study mahogany leather touch study Bibles were given to: Marveta Dubose of Greensboro (Saint Paul Baptist Church); Joshua Cox of Newton (East Maiden Baptist Church); and Robert Wise of Lincolnton (North Brook Baptist Church). Recipients did not have to be present to win. Main prizes were announced Nov. 7 at the BR booth in the exhibit hall.
 
Ginnie Varnam of Tar Heel Baptist Church won a wall and desk calendar as well as a women’s study Bible through a social media giveaway.
 

11/28/2017 8:48:45 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Union settles lawsuit over HHS abortion mandate

November 28 2017 by Tim Ellsworth, Union University

Union University in Jackson, Tenn., has settled its lawsuit against the U.S. government concerning the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate that Union provide abortion-causing drugs as part of its employee health plans.

Union University photo


Under the terms of the settlement, the U.S. government agreed that the mandate was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and that under the Supreme Court’s decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, it imposed a “substantial burden” on Union’s free exercise of religion.
 
“We rejoice over this outcome,” Union University President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said, “in which the government acknowledges that the contraception mandate would impose a substantial burden on our exercise of religion and violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
 
“We believe, based on the Bible, that life begins at conception,” Oliver said. “We went to court to defend religious liberty, the right to believe and to live according to those beliefs, and we are glad that religious liberty prevailed.
 
“Rights of conscience were enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as the first freedom. I hope Union will always be a place that stands for such God-given rights,” Oliver said.
 
The agreement between Union and the U.S. government specifies that Union’s employee health plans are permanently exempt from the HHS contraception mandate.
 
The settlement follows new rules issued by the Trump administration Oct. 6 to exempt entities from the mandate based on their religious beliefs.
 
Union filed one of 56 lawsuits involving more than 140 faith-based plaintiffs against the federal HHS mandate in 2014 that sought a judgment declaring that the abortifacient mandate of the Affordable Care Act violated the university’s rights, not only under RFRA but also under the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act.
 
“Causing the death of the embryo conflicts with Union University’s beliefs based on [s]cripture,” the Union lawsuit stated. “Therefore, Union University has religious-based objection to drugs and devices that kill the embryo and to education and counseling related to the use of these abortion-causing drugs and devices.”
 
The lawsuit also said the “mandate forces Union University to choose between its sincerely held religious beliefs and the government-imposed adverse consequences” of non-compliance.
 
As part of the settlement, the government agreed to pay the bulk of the legal fees that Union accrued.
 
The Tennessee law office of Rainey, Kizer, Reviere and Bell represented Union in the case; attorney Dale Conder Jr. said it was an honor for his colleague John Burleson and him to represent Union in its fight for religious liberty.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
 

11/28/2017 8:38:35 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Union University | with 0 comments



Dean Inserra discusses building pro-life culture in local churches

November 27 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., is slated as a panelist for the 2018 Evangelicals for Life Conference Jan. 18-20 in Washington, D.C. He and other panelists will discuss how to build a pro-life culture in the local church.

ERLC photo by Kelly Hunter
“To be pro-life is to honor God’s climax of creation, the human race,” said Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla.


The annual event draws Christians from across the nation to hear from more than 40 speakers in plenary sessions, panel discussions, interviews and breakout sessions on a wide range of pro-life issues.

The conference is hosted by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family, and occurs in conjunction with the March for Life on Jan. 19, the largest pro-life event in the world.
 
The Biblical Recorder interviewed Inserra to learn more about the upcoming conference. Below is a lightly edited transcript.
 
Q: Before we get to questions about the sanctity of human life, let’s talk about the nature of local churches. Does each local church have a “culture?” What does that mean?
 
A: Certainly. Each local church has a culture whether they realize it or not. A culture of a local church is about what I call, “make up.” That is actually a sports term to describe a player possessing certain qualities, or lack thereof. It influences what a church values and how they approach gatherings, budget, staffing, ministries and relationship to the community.
 
Culture in a local church context is largely about approach. By asking questions such as, “What is your church’s approach to preaching, evangelism, youth ministry, children’s ministry, etc.?” I can tell you the make up of the church, or the culture.
 
Q: Being pro-life can sometimes feel like it’s for those political Christians “out there” – the lobbyists, apologists and demonstrators. What does it mean for a local body of believers, week-in and week-out, to be pro-life?
 
A: It means to be in step with God’s design. To be pro-life is to honor God’s climax of creation, the human race. For a local church in the regular rhythm of daily life, it can be summed up in practicing a love for God and neighbor.
 
We love God by obeying his commandments, responding to the truth He has revealed through His word that our neighbors are His image bearers. This means that when my neighbor is vulnerable, hurting or devalued, as a Christian I love God and neighbor by responding to the needs of those image bearers in whatever way possible.
 
Q: Is being pro-life about politics or theology?
 
A: Being pro-life is about theology, but it is certainly practiced in politics, because that is a great arena to influence for the common good for our neighbors. To be pro-life in theology, but have no interest in how this is carried out politically is a type of faith without works.
 
Yet, at the same time, it is not the responsibility of the government to have a robust theology of the imago Dei. This is the responsibility of the church. We cannot pass the responsibility of caring for our neighbors to the government, but we do need to advance the common good through the opportunities made possible by political engagement.
 
Q: What are some ways churches can put pro-life convictions into practice?
 
A: I believe it begins with conviction from the pulpit, where a pastor refuses to be silent concerning matters of life, especially when it comes to abortion. If the church doesn’t know where the pastors, elders or leadership stands on the issue, there is a serious problem.
 
Then, I believe it starts in finding local ways to engage in pro-life support. Churches should look for ways to support pregnancy centers, provide pathways to care for the vulnerable and create cultures of grace and truth that possess conviction and care, rather than condemnation.
 
Visit evangelicals.life.
 

11/27/2017 2:44:22 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Breakouts: Immigration, revitalization, witnessing among topics discussed

November 27 2017 by From staff and press reports

Five staff members of the Biblical Recorder and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) attended breakout sessions scheduled during the BSC annual meeting. Below are some summaries of seven of the available breakout sessions.

BR photo by Steve Cooke
Antonio Santos leads a breakout session titled “A biblical perspective on immigration” at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, where he serves as Hispanic strategy consultant. He and Larry Phillips, BSC immigrant ministry strategist, led this session, one in English and another in Spanish.

 

An overview of basic pastoral counseling for anxiety-depression

Trying to define the terms depression or anxiety promises to be difficult for anyone, said Brad Hambrick, pastor of counseling at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. He noted that both terms offer broad definitions and vary from person to person.
 
“I don’t think our faith is any stronger if we face anxiety and depression with medicine,” he said. In fact, Hambrick puts medication in a wisdom category not relating to moral character.
 
He believes more ministers and lay people need to learn the phrase, “I don’t know.”
 
People get ulcers; zebras don’t.
 
“Our ability to anticipate and reflect,” Hambrick said, offers some clue as to why. “The neurological cocktail … between panic and euphoria, between compassion and depression, the difference is not in the biology,” he said. “It’s in the interpretation we place on the experience.”
 
He offered some questions to ask to help determine the level of anxiety and depression a person has:

  • Does your depression-anxiety come from or cause doubting of God’s goodness?
  • Does your depression-anxiety come from or cause trying to control things that are God’s to determine?
  • Is your depression-anxiety rooted in other sins such as bitterness, greed, jealousy or discontentment?
  • Is your depression-anxiety rooted in a sense of entitlement or comparing yourself to others?
  • Is your depression-anxiety the result of shame about or a fear of being “found out” for another sin?

“Somehow weeping with those who weep is not a contradiction of ‘rejoice in the Lord always,’” Hambrick said, referring to Philippians 4:4.
 
The first thing people need to do is to listen well.
 
Another thing is to advise a medical checkup. Sometimes there are chemical imbalances (temporary or permanent) that require medication. Keeping physical health a priority helps in a person’s overall well-being.
 
Hambrick also advises studying something with others and cultivating relationships. In his handout, he said, “Friendship, exercise and healthy diet are leading predictors of long-term alleviation of depression-anxiety, even when counseling and medication are beneficial and necessary.”
 
He encouraged pastors to mention depression and anxiety in sermons and on social media accounts. Talking about it opens up lines of communication with people who are usually embarrassed by the stigmatism of struggling with anything.
 
Some resources include his website: bradhambrick.com/depression; bradhambrick.com/anxiety; bradhambrick.com/mentalillness.
 
He also mentioned two books: Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray and Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael Emlet.
 

Revitalization like you’ve never seen before

Five pastors shared their church’s stories on revitalization during a panel discussion at the BSC annual meeting moderated by Lonnie Reynolds, senior consultant for BSC Church Health and Revitalization.
 
“What are the common characteristics … the key elements we see happening in these churches?” Reynolds asked participants as the pastors prepared to speak. He encouraged participants to listen for the common themes among the various messages.
 
The speakers included Jeremy Peeler, Skip Allen and Jeff Marburger, all pastors at Hope Community Church, Shelby. Hope Community Church was formed from the merger of Second Baptist Church of Shelby and Element Church. The other panelists included Devon Varnam, pastor of Tar Heel Baptist Church, Tar Heel and Nathan Cline, pastor of REVO Church, Winston-Salem.
 
Each church was given seven minutes to share their story, and the panel concluded with a question and answer session with the audience.
 
Peeler began the discussion by describing a scene in the Gospels where the disciples had been fishing all night, yet caught nothing.
 
Jesus came to them and asked them to “cast on the other side … out in the deep,” Peeler said.
 
This is what needs to take place for revitalization. “We have to look at Jesus’ question … ‘are there fish there?’ … and listen to that voice. It may be something that is totally different than we have been doing.” Peeler reminded participants that obeying the voice of Jesus takes courage and sacrifice.
 
A similar encouragement was given by Allen from the same Bible passage. He emphasized that when God speaks, we should respond. Our response to God may be, “I don’t know if this is going to work,” Allen said, “but [I’ll do it] if You say so. That’s one of the themes that [church revitalization] takes.” Church members and pastors need to have the same mentality of Peter; no matter what God says, they should be willing to obey. He challenged North Carolina churches to be willing to say to God, “If you say so, I’m willing to do it.”
 
Marburger left participants with two thoughts on church revitalization. He exhorted the audience to not let the details distract them from the vision God has given them and to exhibit humility, affirming that the pastor’s humility leads others to humility. Marburger stated, “If there’s not humility in your hearts, there won’t be humility in your people’s hearts. … It all starts and ends with character.”
 
Although Varnam ministers in a town of less than 150 people, God has been drawing people to Himself through Tar Heel Baptist Church’s ministry. Varnam stated that revitalizing a church was the hardest thing he has ever done but that “Jesus Christ is worth following.” He asked each of the church’s Sunday school classes to adopt a local mission. He has seen classes partner with a variety of organizations, including local public schools, hospice, a Christian-based drug rehabilitation center and first responders.
 
He has seen people start various Bible studies ministering to non-believers. Tar Heel Baptist has also changed and given up traditions, in one instance combining homecoming services with a fall festival. At the fall festival in their town of 110 people, they had 300 people attend.
 
Varnam concluded, “I didn’t come to give you a blueprint for revitalizing your church, I came to encourage you to follow Jesus Christ and let Him lead the revitalization of your church.”
 
Cline said, many pastors start revitalization in the wrong place. Pastors should be encouraging people instead of reminding them over and over that the church is dying. He said, “What if someone stepped up and told them what it could be like? What if a pastor came in and said, ‘How can we be more effective?’”
 
Many times when a pastor tells a church they are dying, the attitude of the membership can be, “We’ll just see who makes it longer, pastor!” Instead, Cline encouraged pastors to inspire their congregations to something greater.
 
Concluding the discussion, Reynolds asked participants to note some commonalities in their respective messages, among them: engagement with community, obedience to a God-given vision, prayer and making disciples who make disciples.
 
Reynolds challenged pastors to begin asking their hesitant church members, “What preferences would you be willing to give up if it meant that your son or daughter or grandchild would become faithful followers of Jesus?” Pastors will be more likely to see the change they desire when they begin with questions like these.
 

A biblical perspective on immigration

As a school nurse, Deborah Sasser often encounters students afraid of deportation. Sasser and 27 other North Carolina Baptists attended the breakout session called “A Biblical Perspective on Immigration,” seeking to engage immigrant populations that are part of their lives.
 
Antonio Santos, BSC Hispanic strategy coordinator, and Larry Phillips, BSC immigrant ministries strategist, facilitated the discussion along with John Faison, executive director of the Council on Immigrant Relations. Santos gave an overview of scripture addressing immigration, including Acts 17:26 and Deuteronomy 10:18-19, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you …
 
The BSC has effectively served widows and orphans through ministries like the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry and Baptist Children’s Homes, Phillips said, but only recently initiated ministry to the sojourner. “We’re playing catch up,” he said.
 
Santos and Phillips’ vision is to help churches become aware of the need for immigrant ministry, and equip them to guide immigrants through the process of becoming legal residents or citizens, if possible.

Faison explained how nonprofit organizations can become certified sites offering low-cost immigration services.
 
Individuals who receive partial or full accreditation from the U.S. Department of Justice can, as non-attorney representatives working with a recognized organization, represent noncitizens before either the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or both DHS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Unaccredited individuals can volunteer with clinic welcome teams and childcare.
 

Speaking the truth: Women using everyday conversations to share the gospel

Combining role play with two approaches to engaging in gospel conversations, Ashley Allen of the BSC’s Embrace Women’s Evangelism and Discipleship ministry encouraged and equipped women to share the gospel through natural, everyday interactions.
 
Allen shared two techniques that women could utilize to begin gospel conversations with others.
The first technique involved sharing a brief testimony using six descriptive words – two describing their life before Christ, two explaining who Christ is to them and two describing their life after Christ – along with a follow-up question like, “Do you have a story like that?”
 
The second approach involved an overview of the “3 Circles Life Conversation Guide,” which is a conversational evangelistic tool that incorporates drawing three circles to depict the brokenness of the world, the goodness of Jesus and how the world will one day be restored to the design that God originally intended.
 
Attendees had a chance to practice both techniques during the session.
 

With: A disciple-making relationship

George Robinson, associate professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Josh Reed, senior consultant for adult evangelism and discipleship with the BSC, encouraged attendees to cultivate disciple-making relationships, beginning with people they already know.
 
Robinson and Reed asked participants to write the names of four people who are “far from God but close to them.” Robinson and Reed encouraged attendees to spend time and share with those individuals through everyday life activities, while looking for creative ways to encounter other lost people, as well.

Robinson and Reed also shared four key disciple-making principles taken from the book With: A Practical Guide to Informal Mentoring and Intentional Disciple Making, which Robinson co-authored.
 
The principles were inspiration, equipping, training and mobilization, and Robinson and Reed provided a scriptural basis and personal examples of each.
 
“If people aren’t asking the right questions, you may need to take them somewhere to where they start to ask right questions,” Robinson said.
 

Faith at home in every ministry

Mark Smith, senior consultant for family evangelism and discipleship with the BSC, encouraged pastors and churches to help families become the primary disciple-makers of their children by equipping parents and grandparents to become “eager learners, authentic doers and intentional teachers” of God’s Word in the home.
 
Using Deuteronomy 6:4-7 as a guide, Smith described four modern-day applications of the passage in which parents can impart biblical truth to their children. These times include sitting at home, walking or riding down the road, lying down and getting up.
 
“This should just be in the rhythm of our day,” Smith said. “We should be very intentional as we go throughout our day to be talking about the Lord.”
 
Smith said he is available to meet and consult with churches to help them begin to implement a “Faith at Home” approach to their various ministries.
 

The heart of disciple-making

Fulfilling the biblical mandate to make disciples isn’t merely about scriptural knowledge or evangelistic skill. It’s also about having a heart for God and for people who don’t know Him.
 
Brian Upshaw, team leader for the BSC’s Disciple-making Team, shared how the Great Commandment to love God and love our neighbors fuels the Great Commission mandate to make disciples of all nations.
 
“We’re not going to fulfill this mandate of making disciples unless our hearts are for God and for people,” Upshaw said.
 
Upshaw also shared an assessment tool called “The Great Commandment Matrix” with attendees. The four-quadrant matrix tool is designed to help individuals explore and examine their heart motives related to various aspects of disciple-making and whether their motives are religion-centered, self-centered, man-centered or Christ-centered.
 

11/27/2017 2:37:19 PM by From staff and press reports | with 0 comments



Ladies gather to celebrate missions

November 27 2017 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

More than 400 women heard encouraging stories about what missionaries are doing around the world during the second Carolina Women event in October.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Leaders from North and South Carolina gather to pray before one of the Carolina Women sessions.


With 422 women present Oct. 6-7, the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) groups from North and South Carolina met at Fort Caswell on Oak Island. The women collected $4,046.31 to split between the two state WMU groups to support various ministries.
 
Women heard from Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of national Woman’s Missionary Union, and Kimberly Sowell, a school teacher and author from South Carolina, during the main sessions. They also were encouraged to attend breakouts on a variety of topics, led by the main leaders as well as state WMU leaders.
 
Ashley Adams, minister of music and education at Hemingway First Baptist Church, led the music.
 
“God wants to use me … why?” Wisdom-Martin asks. “Maybe because I am so ordinary.”
 
She challenged the women to question the cost of serving God first. She asked what their obsessions are, asking about money, power, intellect, family, Facebook, etc.
 
“Some of us love serving the church or WMU more than we do the Master,” she said. “Any thing that comes between you and God is idolatry. What if we put as much passion into His mission as we do with those things that capture our time, our attention and our resources?”
 
She shared the story of a coordinator at a law office who took an 85 percent pay cut to work with Christian Women’s Job Corps.
 
“If you’re going to truly celebrate missions,” she said, “it will break your heart. It could seriously affect [your] time. It could greatly affect your finances. It could be dangerous. I guarantee you it is going to be messy.
 
“I will not offer the Lord my God burnt sacrifices that cost me nothing,” said Wisdom-Martin referring to King David in the Old Testament. “The sweet offering was pleasing to the Lord. How much sweeter the experience was because of all the hassle.
 
“What would happen in your life if you were released to go where God leads? I’m asking you to abandon yourself. Will you play it safe? Or will you refuse to move? Or will you fall unconditionally at the foot of the cross?
 
Wisdom-Martin shared six lessons she learned from meeting with a woman in ministry for 15 minutes.

  1. Be willing to do hard things.
  2. Never give up.
  3. Pour your life and your resources into the next generation.
  4. Don’t lose focus.
  5. Think creatively.
  6. Teach people to make disciples who make disciples.



What does the future hold for Christianity or missions involvement?
 
“The outlook isn’t good, but this isn’t our work,” she said, “it’s His. Pour your life and your resources into the next generation. Teach people to make disciples who make disciples.”
 
Sowell taught about the future King Saul looking for his donkeys.
 
“God does not set people up for failure,” Sowell said. “He equips us to be successful in whatever endeavor He calls us to.”
 
She mentioned Saul’s looks and his height, things people would naturally respect.
 
She expressed that each woman has potential with God. “God takes those things that are admirable and … also those things that are painful. God can use all of these things for His glory.”
 
Jesus had 12 disciples, Sowell stressed, indicating that God does not mean for people to serve in isolation.

“We have pictures in the scripture that teach us that when we look around and there’s nobody there, we need to pray, ‘God, am I where I need to be?’”
 
Saul was overtaken with fear, jealousy, pettiness, impatience and anger.
 
“It wasn’t good enough for God to be on time. He wanted God to be early,” she said. “He wanted all of the credit.”
 
She encouraged prayer to keep focus on God. “When the going gets tough, the tough get praying. The very first choice that we will make is the choice of what we will do with Jesus Christ.”
 
Phyllis Foy, a retired North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary and former Baptist State Convention of North Carolina consultant on church renewal, shared her testimony of being raised in a broken home. It was a NAMB missionary that loved and encouraged her. “God does pick out some insignificant people,” she said, referring to herself.
 
Throughout her childhood, she was told she would never amount to anything and was threatened with reform school. “God provides for the insignificant,” she said. “God is good, and He picks the insignificant to do amazing things.”
 
Carolina Women will meet again in 2019. Carolina Girls meets on the even years. Check wmunc.org for more information.
 

11/27/2017 2:30:33 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Triad churches distribute coats in major outreach event

November 27 2017 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Scores of volunteers from more than a dozen Baptist churches around Greensboro and High Point distributed thousands of coats to local immigrants from a dizzying number of nations and language/cultural groups in a major outreach effort Saturday, Nov. 4, ahead of the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) in Greensboro Nov. 6-7.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Crossover Community Church volunteer Kim Taylor helps an immigrant girl try on a coat at the High Point church’s coat distribution Nov. 4.


Taking part were staff and volunteers from Friendly Avenue Baptist Church, Daystar Español Church, Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, South Elm Street Baptist Church and Southside Baptist Church in Greensboro; Crossover Community Church and Green Street Baptist Church in High Point; First Baptist Church of Summerfield; plus Karen people, Matu and Khmu churches and a Hispanic class that meets with Green Street Baptist; and a Congolese church. Also, a five-member team with years of cross-cultural outreach came from North Side Baptist Church in Greenwood, S.C., to help.
 
Though heavy clouds threatened rain all day, it remained mostly dry until after the distributions were completed in the early evening.
 
Volunteers set up tables of coats, tents and refreshment stands in several of the Triad area’s “pockets of lostness,” which are identified areas where concentrations of unchurched people live. Baptist state convention staffers have identified such areas across the state through extensive demographic studies in recent years. Workers with the convention’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships and Peoples Next Door N.C. ministry took part in the event.
 
High concentrations of immigrants have also settled in these same areas.
 
Volunteers were reminded that about 10 percent of Guilford County’s population was born outside the United States.
 
A 10-member team of Baptists from New York City brought multicultural and multilanguage expertise to share with their North Carolina Baptist partners for the project. Since at least 2011, N.C. Baptists have been sending coats and volunteers to New York for new church plants to distribute in their local neighborhoods. They first worked in the Jackson Heights area of Queens, and in recent years, coats have been distributed at a dozen or more points all over the city.
 
This year Coats for the City in New York City will be held Dec. 2. Hundreds of N.C. Baptist volunteers will help distribute thousands of coats with the aim that New York Baptist churches can multiply their outreach into local areas.
 
“I’m really glad to be able to give back to North Carolina Baptists through the efforts of some of our pastors and members of our churches,” said George Russ, executive director of Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, who was present to observe and offer suggestions during the Nov. 4 effort in the Triad.
 
Following are highlights from the various coat distribution areas.
   

Pocket No. 22

Volunteers from Friendly Avenue Baptist Church set up tables bearing some 200 coats about a mile from their church in the parking lot of a grocery that caters to Hispanic customers.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
At an apartment complex filled with immigrants near downtown High Point, New Jersey visitor Ruben Rodriguez, right, and Zac Lyons, who heads Great Commission Partnerships and Peoples Next Door NC, pray with immigrant men from Sudan, while in the background Boto Joseph and other New York helpers provide music.


“Our church is mostly Anglo, but we have a small Latin ministry,” said Steve King, Friendly Avenue’s associate pastor for discipleship and evangelism. “That means missions,” he explained about his title.

Friendly Avenue is partnering with Daystar Español, a Hispanic church led by Pastor David Duarte, a member of the Baptist State Convention’s Board of Directors, in the outreach to immigrants.
 
“We anticipated many Hispanics would come, and we have made a great number of contacts today,” Duarte said. He estimated that about 40,000 or more Hispanics now live in Greensboro with approximately 30-40 percent from Mexico and the rest from across the Caribbean and Central and South America.
 
Duarte said Hispanics have been in North Carolina long enough now that some have attained a middle class lifestyle. Although they may not be as prosperous as middle class Anglos, having a house, a car and perhaps a business means they are doing well compared to what they had before coming here.
 
Though no signs are posted to say so, the distribution was happening in “pocket of lostness No. 22,” where Friendly Avenue will be focusing on outreach in months ahead.
 
This is more than a passing program for the church, King indicated. Friendly Avenue volunteers were contacting many Hispanic young people, many of whom have grown up speaking English.
 
“We are inviting them to come take part in our youth basketball program, and we will be doing everything we can to develop good relationships with them,” King said.
 
“We are praying now on whether we should start a new church or bring these immigrants into our fellowship and change the very face of our congregation,” King said as he moved among the volunteers and distributed pastries from a large plastic bag as the cool morning sped by.
 
Friendly Avenue volunteers Krystal Weeks and Elizabeth Danner were among the dozens of fellow church members who used warm smiles and hand signals in place of Spanish to help Hispanic women plow through the coats-laden tables and find coats that fit.
 
Also on hand to help with the Hispanic outreach was Ruben Rodriguez, a church planter from Union City, N.J., who started a new church two years ago in a neighborhood that has about 110,000 residents in 1.25 square miles. More than 90 percent of those residents are Hispanic.
 
Rodriguez said his church gave out some 200 coats in 45 minutes during the 2016 Coats for the City event, and he became convinced it’s a good outreach tool. They are planning distributions at two locations for 2017.
 

Summit Avenue

At an apartment complex on Summit Avenue, volunteers from Pleasant Garden Baptist Church set up tables with hundreds of coats sought by hundreds of immigrants from the surrounding neighborhood.

An African girl – barefoot despite the chilly, damp weather ran happily around in her coat that was so new it still had the brand tags dangling from it. Across the way, a Pleasant Garden volunteer made faces at a young African boy as she tried to get him to smile.
 
Volunteer Ben Willey, who already signed up for the Coats for the City distribution in New York, approached volunteers with clipboard in hand as he tried to get names and addresses for follow-up.
 
Marty Tobin, Pleasant Garden’s associate pastor who heads such ministries, said they were delighted with the good turnout. Tobin and Pleasant Garden have worked with Coats for the City in New York from the earliest days.
 
He talked to many immigrants as he moved about the yard in Greensboro.
 
Beyond the coats project, Tobin said Pleasant Garden Baptist has been working with an immigrant ministry group called New Arrivals Institute. In August, the church distributed backpacks filled with school supplies to immigrant children.
 
“They’re scrapping for every dollar, and the backpacks were a big help to them,” Tobin said. “Many of the immigrants are just overwhelmed with living in a new country; sometimes they don’t even know what school supplies their kids are needing.”
 

First Baptist Church, Summerfield

Hundreds of immigrants gathered at a distribution point set up at Legacy Crossing Apartments in northeastern Greensboro to get about 900 coats handed out by volunteers from First Baptist Church, Summerfield. This church has long been involved in Coats for the City in New York, and its volunteers are known for their good work in both acquiring and distributing hundreds of coats each year.
 
Volunteers saw people from Burma, Burundi, Nepal, Rwanda, Congo, Ghana and Sudan and counted 17 Arabic speakers, among others, according to Larry Kirby, associate pastor of music and college at First Baptist.
 
“It was like New York all over again,” Kirby said. “The people came from everywhere and organized chaos ensued. It was beautiful – so many nations together in one place. Folks receiving coats, Bibles and having great conversations with the volunteers.
 
“We were not sure exactly the crowd that we would have, and it was certain in very short order that God had gone before us and we were able to catch up to the work already being done.”
 

Downtown High Point

At Hamilton Place apartment complex near downtown High Point, the Baptist team visiting from New York sang as Boto Joseph played guitar as the last of 350 coats were picked up by immigrants that included those from Myanmar (Karen people), Vietnam, Sudan and several other African countries, plus refugees who fled the bloody conflict in Syria.
 
Ruben Rodriguez, a volunteer from New Jersey, and Zac Lyons, who heads Great Commission Partnerships and Peoples Next Door N.C., prayed with four men from Sudan.
 
One volunteer from Green Street Baptist Church in High Point held a long and animated conversation with two Syrian refugee men. That worker has traveled five times to New York to work on coats distributions.
 
Immigrants also included Hispanics, people from Nepal, plus several ethnic groups from Myanmar (Burma).
 
Pastor Derick Mehboob, who started a new church in Brooklyn in 2010, was looking perplexed as he surveyed the refugees. He is accustomed to seeing people from around the world back in Brooklyn, but he admitted he had not expected to see immigrants from so many places here in North Carolina.
 
Along with coats, the refugees were offered DVDs with multiple language editions of the Jesus film and bags of candy.
 

Crossover Community Church, High Point

Leaders of Crossover Community Church decided to distribute coats from inside a fellowship hall after heavily overcast skies threatened rain. Lines stretched across the lawn as immigrants from many lands waited to gain access.
 
Inside the front door, Crossover’s Senior Pastor Daryl Love greeted refugees and asked questions about their residence and what they understood about Jesus.
 
Crossover volunteer Debbie Anglin talked to a woman wearing Middle Eastern clothing whose face was etched with concern.

An equally concerned Asian woman waited with a wide-eyed infant in her arms.
 
Once inside the hall, refugees saw hundreds of coats laid out on long tables – one for men and one for women.
 
Crossover volunteer Tim Mottey helped men find coats and helped them check for fit.
 
On the women’s side, Crossover volunteer Kim Taylor was rewarded with a brilliant smile from an African girl as she tried on a purple coat. Nearby a boy smiled broadly and almost danced with happiness as he slipped his arms into a jacket with bright orange patches.
 
“This was wonderful!” exclaimed Jonathan Lawson, connections pastor at Crossover, as the day ended. “This was the first time we have tried such a distribution.”
 
Lawson said they expected to give away 500 jackets and 300 heavy coats.
 
In a training and prayer class held at Crossover Community Church on Friday night, Naomi* reminded volunteers that they needed to do more than just say a few sentences about Jesus or just give a coat. She is a missionary volunteer with Joseph in Queens.
 
Try to establish a friendship, she urged, which is the only way to become trusted enough to present a meaningful Christian witness.
 
She told of how she became friends with a Muslim woman in New York and has been able to have weekly meetings to discuss matters of faith.
 
In North Carolina, Baptists are praying that many friendships and discussions about Jesus can come about through efforts like giving away coats.

*Name changed
 

11/27/2017 2:23:44 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



LifeWay Stores to collect Christmas toys for children

November 27 2017 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

Many children who are spending Christmas in the hospital this year will receive a stuffed animal declaring the love of Jesus from LifeWay Christian Store customers.

LifeWay Christian Resources photo
LifeWay Christian Store customers can purchase and donate penguin and bear stuffed animals for children’s hospitals and local ministries in a campaign beginning Saturday and continuing through the week before Christmas.


From Nov. 24 through the week before Christmas, LifeWay Stores will collect toy bears, moose and penguins, each embroidered with the phrase “Jesus Loves Me,” from customers to give to local children’s hospitals, mission organizations and local ministries. This year marks the 10th anniversary of LifeWay’s Christmas stuffed animal drive.
 
“This is one of my favorite promotions each year,” said Mary Gowen, Atlanta market manager for LifeWay Christian Stores. “Our customers get excited to participate in bringing the love of Christ to hundreds of children. It’s amazing to be able to supply so many resources to local ministries through the generosity of our customers.”
 
Gowen manages the LifeWay Store in Morrow, Ga. This year, her store will be collecting stuffed animals for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, for first responders attending to children and for Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes.
 
Customers can purchase and donate a “Jesus Loves Me” stuffed animal for $5 at LifeWay Stores this Christmas season. Last year, LifeWay collected approximately 45,000 toys for local children’s hospitals and ministries. These stuffed animals collected through LifeWay have even been featured on ESPN.
 
“The Christmas before last I was home watching bowl games,” said Jerry Sager, manager of the LifeWay Store in Birmingham, Ala. “ESPN featured a segment of players doing charitable work in the city. Several of the players were shown visiting sick children at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The final clip showed a player handing a sick child one of the stuffed animals our store had collected. These stuffed animals – with “Jesus Loves Me” lettering on the feet – were broadcast to millions of homes all across America.”
 
Sager’s store will be collecting stuffed animals for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital again this year. Other examples of ministries and hospitals LifeWay is collecting Christmas gifts for include:

  • Jonesboro, Ark. – Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes.
  • Buford, Ga. – Lawrenceville food co-op of the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association.
  • Southaven, Miss. – Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

 
Customers can contact their local LifeWay Store to find out what ministry, mission organization or children’s hospital will receive Christmas stuffed animals collected in their area.
 
In operation for more than 90 years, LifeWay Christian Stores is the largest Christian bookstore chain in the United States with more than 170 stores nationwide. The stores are owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources with headquarters in Nashville.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
 

11/27/2017 8:09:12 AM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



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