October 2015

Halloween opportunity for churches’ evangelism

October 28 2015 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness

While retail stores across the nation are selling Halloween costumes and all kinds of sweets, many Southern Baptist churches are getting ready to offer their communities a safe and fun alternative.
 
These events, scheduled on or around Oct. 31, are growing in size to the point where some of them now compare as outreach opportunities to Easter, Vacation Bible School and Christmas.
 
Wayside Baptist Church in Miami, Fla. started hosting Halloween alternatives in the early ‘90s. It was one of the first churches in South Florida to do so, said Gary Johnson, director of missions for the Miami Baptist Association.
 
Leigh Byers, Kidz Ministry director at Wayside Baptist, noted, “VBS is the biggest event on the church calendar because it runs for an entire week. But in terms of community outreach [Halloween] is the one we spend the most money on and attract a large amount of people.”
 
Wayside will host its Western Fiesta on Oct. 31. The children will receive a bag of wrapped candy when they arrive for rides, games and a food court at the church’s parking lot and part of the adjacent land at the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. Hundreds of children show up to the event with their parents.
 
David Burton, director of David Burton Ministries in Middleburg, Fla., said churches “have always struggled about what to do with Halloween.”
 
“I think it’s good that the church doesn’t throw in the towel and ignore Halloween,” said Burton, former evangelism director with the Florida Baptist Convention. “We want churches to do the alternative, but let’s make sure that it’s an actual alternative.”
 
HighPoint Church in Lake Worth, Fla., will host a Trunk-n-Treat event where the children can dress up, but preferably not in scary costumes. Angie Machler, director of children’s ministries at HighPoint, said 150 kids participated last year, with more than 200 expected this year. The two biggest outreach events at HighPoint are Easter and Halloween, Machler said.
 
Some practical ways of sharing the gospel during alternative Halloween events, Burton said, are to pass out evangelism tracts along with the candy, talk to parents and pray with them as they stand aside and watch their children, and make sure to follow up after the event with visitors who attend the event.
 
For Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., Halloween is an opportunity to let its community know it is a family place, said Debbie Weisemann, the church’s minister of guest services, prayer and community outreach.
 
“It’s a strong outreach for us because it’s good at getting the community in,” she said.
 
The alternative event at Bell Shoals is done as a Trunk or Treat featuring classic cars such as Chevys from the ‘50s and ‘80s and Cadillacs from the ‘80s for the dads, as well as bounce houses and games for the kids.
 
Every candy bag a child receives contains a “Light up the Night” evangelism tract, which Weisemann described as a great opportunity for them to know the gospel.
 
Last year, Bells Shoals had a turnout of about 1,500 kids and parents.
 
“We’re finding, at Bell Shoals, that people drift away from church as they get older. But when they have children they feel the need to come back to church,” Weisemann said.
 
First Baptist Church in Jacksonville will be hosting its second annual Trunk of Treats event. Diane Mitchell, director of preschool ministries at the church, said more than 2,000 people participated last year. Each campus of FBC Jacksonville will be hosting its own Halloween alternative to reach their individual communities, she said.
 
“I think parents are looking for an alternative to going door-to-door because you just don’t know who’s behind the door,” Mitchell said.
 
All the churches have a registration system to assess who is already a church member and who is not attending a church. At Wayside Baptist, the names of people who make professions of faith are forwarded to the evangelism ministry for follow-up, while other names are added to an email list to keep them in the loop about other church activities. At Bell Shoals, a group of volunteers hand-delivers gifts to the first-time visitors in the days following the Trunk or Treat event and they mail out invitations to Sunday School for the children.
 
Burton said churches need to take advantage of the fact that they control the event.
 
“Use that time to announce other upcoming events, have someone share their testimony on a mic, play Jesus music and share the gospel. … It’s a wonderful opportunity for our churches to take advantage of.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keila Diaz is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness at www.gofbw.com, news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention.)
 

Related Story:

Halloween draws focus of new study

10/28/2015 1:13:29 PM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments



World Series cities share need for church plants

October 28 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

At first glance the two cities appear as different as they could possibly be.
 
New York City is the city that doesn’t sleep, the financial center of the United States and one of the largest cities on the planet. The home of barbecue, jazz and Hallmark, Kansas City, Mo., is best known as the “Heart of America” and the “Paris of the Plains.”

 
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Steve Canter

The two cities are also the largest and the smallest Major League Baseball markets in the United States. Yet they will share North America’s attention as they host the 111th World Series.
 
Among the 50 cities the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is focusing its church planting efforts, New York City and Kansas City share a considerable need for new church plants. When Southern Baptists watch the World Series this year, it will provide an opportunity to learn more about two of the most significant mission fields in North America.
 
In fact, the two specific communities near where the games will be played have unique missional needs. Queens, the New York City borough where the Mets play, has 2.3 million people in it alone – larger than all but three U.S. cities. Steve Canter, NAMB’s Send City missionary for New York City, of the city’s five boroughs, said Queens has been one of the toughest for Southern Baptist churches to take root in.
 
“Because of the diversity and density of Queens, we need church planters that are going to reach first-generation people from all over the world,” Canter said. “It is the most diverse borough we have. Really, almost everything is in Queens, every kind of food you can imagine, every kind of people group you can imagine.”
 
Adam Bishop moved to Queens from Alabama in February to help start churches in this diverse borough. Particularly focused on unreached South Asian people groups, Bishop hopes to plant churches in the borough’s Jackson Heights neighborhood. The neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of South Asian immigrants in the city. Jackson Heights, Bishop said, has become a hub for newly arriving Tibetan, Indian, Bhutanese, Nepali and Pakistani immigrants.

 
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Photo courtesy Adam Bishop
Adam Bishop teaches during a monthly celebration time in Queens. During monthly celebration times, Bishop and other church planters in the city lead people from a variety of unreached people groups in simple worship songs, a short sermon and conversation groups. Bishop is trying to start a church among South Asians in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens.

To help connect with these communities, Bishop teaches English as a second language. He works together with several other church planters who are focused on other unreached people groups. Together they host a monthly celebration time with simple worship music, a short sermon and conversation groups. Bishop also hosts a small group Bible study in his home once a week. He’s praying for opportunities to continue to connect with and share the gospel with South Asians in the neighborhood.
 
“The need is huge,” Bishop said. “A lot of the people we work with are immigrants. They’ve either been in the United States for a short time or they’ve been here for several years, but more than likely their English won’t be very good. Many of them came to Jackson Heights because they wanted to be a part of a community of people who are the same as them, as far as their language and culture. We wanted to plant a church that would bring all of those people together.”
 
The community around Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium has also seen new Southern Baptist activity in recent years. In April of 2014 Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., replanted River Edge Fellowship on the edge of Kansas City, Mo., and the suburb of Raytown, just a mile or two from the stadium.
 
A diverse neighborhood, the Raytown community around River’s Edge Fellowship isn’t easy to reach, said campus pastor Travis Yeargans. Officially a campus of Lenexa Baptist Church, the River’s Edge functions in many ways as a typical church plant with both live preaching and local leadership.

 
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Matt Marrs

Yeargans said the biggest need of the Raytown community is for its many small, struggling churches to adjust their focus with an eye toward reaching a new generation of residents.
 
“Kansas City is an old city with a lot of history of religious life here,” Yeargans said. “But where we are many of the legacy churches are dying – they’re dance halls now. They used to be places that the community recognized as houses of worship, and they’re now being used for something else.”
 
Matt Marrs, Kansas City’s Send North America City missionary, says the Kansas City Royals’ success over the last two years has helped to spur a heavy influx of people into the city’s urban core.
 
“That’s where we need planters,” Marrs said. “Our highest priority dot on the map is in those downtown areas where we’re seeing a lot of growth and a lot of revitalization. The planters I talk to are typically wanting to go to the more suburban areas. One of the challenges we have in Kansas City is to get young church planters who want to come and live in the city, to invest their lives in the heart of the city.”
 
The New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals opened their best-of-seven World Series in Kansas City Oct. 27.
 
For more information about Send North America: New York, visit namb.net/newyorkcity. For more information about Send North America: Kansas City, visit namb.net/kansascity.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

10/28/2015 12:59:38 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



Two of Florida’s smallest churches make big impact

October 28 2015 by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Witness

Even small churches can make a big difference when it comes to meeting the needs of their communities.
 
Through strategic partnerships and good community relations, two small Florida Baptist churches are able to give away thousands of pounds of food to people in need in their respective communities.
 
Eastpoint is a town of about 2,300 people that occupies just more than seven square miles in Franklin County in the Panhandle. Nearly half of the people there are employed by the oyster industry, which has been in dire straits in recent years. As their main source of income flounders, so does their livelihood – 22.6 percent of Eastpoint residents live below the poverty level.
 
First Baptist Church in Eastpoint is well-acquainted with the hardships of the people in its community. For the past 22 years, the church has been feeding those in need around them.
 
“This is a very, very low-income community,” said Sonny Crosby, director of the feeding program at FBC Eastpoint.
 
At the other end of the state, First Baptist Church in Islamorada, located in Monroe County, also is giving residents of its community a hot meal and inviting them to visit their food pantry every Tuesday.
 
Islamorada, with roughly the same landmass as Eastpoint, has almost three times the population. Located in the upper Keys and known as the fishing capital of the world, the tourism industry is a driving force in the area. And while the number of Islamorada residents living below the poverty level is lower than Eastpoint’s –11.5 percent – there is still a demographic of people that is food insecure.
 
FBC Islamorada Pastor Jonathan Elwing said that he’s seen a shift in the types of people requiring assistance lately.
 
“Now we’re seeing less unemployed and homeless people and more families struggling and working two to three jobs to make ends meet in the service industry,” Elwing said.
 
Both churches rely on partnerships to accomplish their ministry goals.
 
Crosby at Eastpoint said the nonprofit Farm Share has helped the church by delivering between 7,000 and 8,000 pounds of food each month free of charge. Farm Share sorts, packages and delivers surplus food from area farmers that are unable to take the harvest to market. Through Farm Share, Eastpoint has been able to give out fresh fruit and vegetables.
 
Crosby said they also buy food from America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend food bank in Tallahassee, adding canned and dry goods and meats to the variety of foods they can offer.
 
Through these partnerships, FBC Eastpoint gives out an average of 40 pounds of food to 110-125 families each week.
 
Almost as remarkable as the amount of food they distribute is the number of people who now are regularly attending the church.
 
FBC Eastpoint has an average attendance of 50, up from 15, according to Pastor Doug Boucher in an email response. He credits the church’s revival to its work in the community.
 
Crosby agreed, saying that the feeding ministry has “planted the seed for growth here at church.”
 
In Islamorada, Elwing has partnered with area restaurants to provide a hot meal to families each week.
 
One five-star restaurant in the area caters an entire meal for 100 people at no charge every month.
 
Elwing said what started as a small outreach to the community 15 years ago has turned into a major means for not only meeting hunger needs in Islamorada, but spiritual needs as well.
 
“We do a Bible study and a short gospel presentation every Tuesday night before we start the meal,” he said. “So many of the people who come have to work, and we recognize that we’re not going to get them back on Sunday.”
 
Elwing said that by looking at themselves as more than just a food ministry, their regular Tuesday night guests consider FBC Islamorada their church home.
 
“When I see them in the community, they introduce me as their pastor,” he said.
 
But officially, Elwing said, the church only has 16 members, despite having 42 in attendance one Sunday last month.
 
Elwing estimates that FBC Islamorada feeds 75-100 people a hot meal on Tuesday nights and gives out approximately 1,200 pounds of food from its food pantry each week.
 
In addition to the feeding ministry, FBC Islamorada hosts the Florida Baptist Convention Mobile Dental Unit, partners with the Monroe County Health Department to provide free flu and pneumonia shots and makes sure people are getting the medical attention they need.
 
“Baptist Health has a free health clinic in Tavernier, and we work hand in hand with them, making sure families that come through have access to it,” Elwing said, adding that sometimes that means picking up prescriptions or taking people to appointments.
 
Elwing said small churches can fall into a trap of feeling like they are too small to do anything.
 
“We’ve really worked hard to change the idea that our church falls into this window and we will always be the same,” he said. “It’s so not true! God will do whatever He wants to do. He can do anything.”
 
But for Elwing and Crosby, while the growth is a welcome blessing, it’s not the reason they do what they do.
 
“It’s more important to see souls in the Kingdom of Heaven than people in our building,” Elwing said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Kalil is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness.)

10/28/2015 12:46:32 PM by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments



Spurgeon Library dedicated, record enrollment at Midwestern

October 28 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

The Spurgeon Library dedication, record enrollment, faculty elections and campus master plan approval highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) fall trustee meeting on Oct. 19-20.
 

Spurgeon Library dedication

Capping more than 10 months of construction and preparations, as well as years of dreaming and planning, the seminary community celebrated the dedication of the Spurgeon Library with a ribbon cutting and official naming ceremony.
 
Accompanied by Bill and Connie Jenkins, who donated $2.5 million for the project, President Jason Allen and his wife Karen cut the ribbon to officially open the library and then unveiled a plaque honoring the couple by naming the building that houses the library as “Jenkins Hall.”

 
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MBTS Photo
President Jason Allen addresses those gathered for the Spurgeon Library dedication at MBTS on Oct. 20. The library holds more than 6,000 books and artifacts from British pastor C.H. Spurgeon’s personal collection.

“The Spurgeon Library is the fulfillment of a vision to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ for the academy, for the church, and for the glory of God through the preservation and presentation of Charles Spurgeon’s personal library and related artifacts,” Allen said. “The Spurgeon Library was made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Bill and Connie Jenkins, who embody Christian faithfulness, biblical conviction and have been an ongoing source of encouragement to MBTS and personally to my family.
 
“As a perpetual tribute to their stewardship and as an ongoing marker of God’s faithfulness to and through His people, this building bears the name, ‘Jenkins Hall,’” Allen said.
 
Making the long trip from the United Kingdom to be present for the ceremony were three of Charles H. Spurgeon’s descendants: Hilary Spurgeon, the wife of the late great-grandson, David; as well as great-great-grandchildren Richard Spurgeon and Susannah Spurgeon-Cochrane.
 
Bringing a greeting on behalf of the Spurgeon family, Cochrane noted that growing up, not much was said of the family’s ties to the “Prince of Preachers.” However, as she matured, her appreciation for C.H. Spurgeon grew. As she read some of Spurgeon’s works, she sensed that everything he wrote and said was wrapped in and centered on Christ. She added that this fact should be of encouragement to modern-day believers.
 
“For me and for us all, Spurgeon’s life of faith and his dedication to proclaiming the gospel should spur us on and encourage us to give our all for the work God has called us to do – no matter who we are or where God has placed us,” Cochrane said.
 
“We are the ones who have to carry on the work of pointing people to Christ,” she noted. “Our hope and prayer is that the Spurgeon Center [Library] would point many more people to Jesus; that people would see Jesus through Spurgeon and his work; and that Spurgeon’s dedication to God and His gospel would inspire the next generation of preachers to give their all to Jesus.”
 
The Spurgeon Library houses more than 6,000 books and artifacts from C.H. Spurgeon’s personal library collection. Embedded within the floor-to-ceiling bookcases and around the room are about 80 displays highlighting particular books or items. Focal points of the room include a preaching rail. Also on display is a desk used by Spurgeon in his office and a replica of the pulpit he preached behind at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

 
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MBTS Photo
Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen, his wife Karen and Bill and Connie Jenkins cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the Spurgeon Library on Oct. 20.

“This day has come together in a remarkable way,” Allen said. “It began way back in Victorian England when a man named Charles Spurgeon was raised up by God to preach …”
 
Approximately 10 years after Spurgeon’s death, his family elected to sell his personal library, and in 1904 the collection was moved to William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. The library resided there for approximately a century before being purchased by Midwestern Seminary in 2004. Now, more than 10 years later, Allen said the vision of how to appropriately house this treasure has been realized.
 
“It is part museum, part library, part study,” Allen said. “It is something to be visited; something to be accessed; and something to be engaged in at both the academic and ministerial levels. This collection and space will not only serve as a relic to the past, but as a living instrument to serve the church and to equip pastors and preachers of God’s Word.”
 
The Spurgeon Library will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about the library or for individuals and groups desiring to visit, click on spurgeoncenter.com.
 

Record enrollment

During his president’s report to the trustees, Allen announced that for the third consecutive year student headcount at Midwestern Seminary had reached record levels. This fall semester’s headcount was up 22 percent over the school’s previous top fall enrollment, which occurred in 2014. The fall headcount stands at 1,702 students, Allen reported. And he added that with the school’s second term of fall enrollment for its online program, a potential for even more growth is anticipated.
 
“Trends in higher education reveal that most institutions are either flat or declining in enrollment,” he said. “In this challenging environment, it is evident that the Lord’s favor continues to be upon Midwestern Seminary as we train the next generation of pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders for the church.
 
“As I reflect upon how God has moved so mightily this past year, it brings great encouragement to me and to the Midwestern Seminary community to announce an enrollment surge of 22 percent for the Fall 2015 semester.”
 
Allen noted that significant and tireless effort – as accomplished by the admissions team and the seminary community as a whole – has been key in attracting students to the school and keeping the ones already here.
 
“Recruiting and retention is a seminary-wide endeavor, and I commend our entire campus community for a great effort in this regard, but our Academic and Institutional Relations divisions have exceeded even our highest expectations, and the Lord has chosen to bless,” he said.
 
“Moreover, we pray Southern Baptists are resonating with our vision of existing for the local church, and we are grateful for their prayers and support, especially through the Cooperative Program.”
 

Trustee business

In business stemming from the Academic Committee, trustees elected two faculty members effective Jan. 1, 2016.
 
Matthew C. Millsap, who joined Midwestern Seminary’s faculty in January, was elected as assistant director of library services and assistant professor of Christian studies. Millsap came to Kansas City after completing his doctoral studies and serving as an adjunct professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Owen D. Strachan was elected by trustees as associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement. Strachan, who came to MBTS in August, previously served as assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky. He also is the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.
 
In one other move, Robert J. Matz was promoted to assistant professor of Christian studies. Matz also concurrently serves as assistant director of online studies and institutional effectiveness and has been at MBTS since 2011.
 
In other meeting business, the trustees ratified a campus master plan which would prioritize four goals: constructing a student center which will be located on the northwest quadrant of campus center; repurposing the west wing of the Koehn Myers Center into single student housing; renovating the seminary’s library and creating within it office suites for academic administration; and relocating as many faculty offices as possible to campus center.
 
Trustees meet on the campus in October and April each year to conduct institutional business.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

Related Story:

Spurgeon’s ‘preaching rail’ now at Midwestern

10/28/2015 12:36:57 PM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



New school of preaching approved at SWBTS

October 28 2015 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SWBTS) board of trustees approved the establishment of a school of preaching; elected five new faculty members; received reports of a 10 percent enrollment increase for the fall semester; and conducted other business during their fall meeting, Oct. 19-21.
 

School of Preaching

Trustees unanimously approved the establishment of a new School of Preaching at SWBTS. As the seventh of the seminary’s academic schools, the school of preaching will be dedicated to training students in the art of text-driven preaching.
 
Trustees also elected David Allen, who currently serves as dean of the school of theology, as the school of preaching’s founding dean. Allen will be part of a seven-member faculty that includes Barry McCarty, chief parliamentarian for the Southern Baptist Convention; Vern Charette, who specializes in evangelistic preaching; and Steven Smith, whose published works include Dying to Preach: Embracing the Cross in the Pulpit and Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture.
 
All preaching courses at SWBTS will be taught through the school of preaching. Degrees available through the school include the doctor of philosophy, doctor of ministry and master of theology. In addition, the school will also offer the certificate of preaching that will supplement the master of divinity programs of the school of theology and Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.
 
The school will officially open on Aug. 1, 2016. To read more about the school of preaching, visit swbts.edu/preach.
 

Enrollment increase

The admissions office reported that enrollment has increased 10 percent over the last two years, with this fall’s enrollment exceeding last year’s by 400 students. Total enrollment for the fall semester is 3,643. In addition, the number of prospect cards for new enrollees is up 52 percent, new student applications are up 19 percent, and the number of those moving from application to enrollment is up 19 percent as well.
 

Sale of E.D. Head apartments

Trustees approved the sale of the E.D. Head apartment complex, located four blocks east of the campus. Southwestern President Paige Patterson explained that, with the new student housing apartments located across the street from the main campus, the E.D. Head apartments are no longer necessary. Also, given the complex’s distance from campus, Patterson noted it is difficult to provide adequate security for the students who live there. The sale of the E.D. Head apartments will serve to bring students closer to the main campus.
 

Faculty elections

  • Nathan Burggraff was elected assistant professor of music theory.

  • Ben Caston was elected associate professor of voice.

  • Barry McCarty was elected professor of preaching and rhetoric.

  • Charles Savelle was elected assistant professor of Bible exposition at the J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston.

  • David Toledo was elected assistant professor of music ministry.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

10/28/2015 12:28:39 PM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments



Halloween draws focus of new study

October 27 2015 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Research

When it comes to Halloween, most Americans don’t have a problem celebrating the spooky holiday, a new study shows. Yet, one-third say they avoid Halloween or its pagan elements.
 
Although 3 in 5 Americans told LifeWay Research that Halloween is “all in good fun,” 21 percent avoid the holiday completely and another 14 percent avoid the pagan elements.
 
Halloween has been known in North America since colonial days. But it wasn’t until Irish immigrants brought their Halloween customs to America in the 1840s that the festival grew in popularity. Since then, it has been woven into the fabric of American culture. By the 1950s, Halloween was mostly considered a children’s holiday celebrated with costumes and candy.

 
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IMB photo by Will Stuart

But Halloween has exploded in popularity the last several years, even among adults. Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation, more than double the amount spent 10 years ago.
 
“As popular and pervasive as Halloween has become, there is still a sizeable minority that avoids at least some elements,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.
 

Religious differences

Not surprisingly, nonreligious Americans are most likely to say Halloween is all in good fun (75 percent) and least likely to avoid Halloween completely (11 percent), according to the survey.
 
Christians aren’t far off from the rest of Americans when it comes to Halloween. A slight majority (54 percent) says Halloween is all in good fun, while 18 percent try to avoid the pagan elements, and 23 percent avoid it completely.
 
Catholics are more likely to select “It’s all in good fun” (71 percent) than Protestants (49 percent).
 
Evangelicals are more likely to avoid the holiday completely (28 percent) or its pagan elements (23 percent), although 45 percent say Halloween is “all in good fun.”
 
Church attendance also affects Americans’ views of Halloween. Those attending a religious service once a week or more are the least likely to say Halloween is all in good fun (44 percent), compared to those attending once or twice a month (68 percent) or only on religious holidays (82 percent).
 
“More than two-thirds of evangelicals welcome the candy, costumes, or community interaction surrounding the holiday, but the majority are unwilling to label ‘the pagan elements of Halloween’ good.” McConnell said.
 

Regional and age differences

Americans are separated by geography as well as age when it comes to attitudes toward Halloween.
 
Southerners (27 percent) are more likely than those in the West (19 percent), Midwest (18 percent) and Northeast (12 percent) to say they try to avoid Halloween completely.
 
Older Americans are also more likely to avoid Halloween than their younger counterparts. Those age 55 and older (27 percent) are more likely to select “I try to avoid Halloween completely” than those age 18-54 (17 percent).
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 14-28, 2015. The calling utilized random digit dialing. Fifty percent of completes were among landlines and 50 percent were among cellphones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.6 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research, based in Nashville, is an evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is editor of Facts & Trends magazine.)

Related Story:
Halloween opportunity for churches' evangelism

10/27/2015 11:48:25 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Mississippi event to focus on racial unity

October 27 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

God’s church must take the lead in achieving racial unity as the United States deals with a deepening crisis of racially polarizing events, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd has said in advance of a Nov. 4 racial reconciliation celebration in Jackson, Miss.
 
Floyd will join Jerry Young, president of the predominantly black National Baptist Convention USA, as a speaker at “A National Conversation on Race in America,” Mission Mississippi’s annual racial reconciliation celebration at the Jackson Convention Complex.

 
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Opening with an 8:30 a.m. “Gracism Summit,” a conversation on racial reconciliation among 20 invited pastors, the event is designed not to rehash the past, but to discover practical ways to help achieve racial unity in the nation, Floyd has told Southern Baptist pastors participating.
 
“Dr. Young and I are each asking 10 local church pastors from across America in our respective conventions to join us in this national conversation on racial unity,” Floyd has said regarding the event. “We are thankful for every leader or group who is attempting to address this national crisis. Yet, we believe local church pastors and churches can bring a unique perspective on the racial crisis; and in reality, we need to lead the way toward addressing and resolving this crisis.”
 
The event is an annual outreach of Mission Mississippi, a nonprofit ministry that states as its mission a desire “to encourage and demonstrate grace in the Body of Christ across racial lines, so that communities throughout Mississippi can see practical evidence of the Gospel message.”
 
Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, has worked since his election to open doors to racial reconciliation.
 
“When I was elected president, I began praying for open doors. Through prayer gatherings, I began to see God bring down the walls that divide races and ethnicities,” Floyd said in an Oct. 19 blogpost. “Then, sadly through the tragedies of Ferguson and other cities in our nation, the burden and conviction became overwhelming.”
 
Southern Baptist pastors slated to participate in the Jackson summit are:

  • Marshall Blalock, senior pastor, First Baptist Church Charleston, Charleston, S.C.

  • Felix Cabrera, director of Red 1:8 Church Planting Network, lead pastor, Iglesia Bautista Central, Oklahoma City, Okla., and

  • Timmy Chavis, chairman, Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council of the SBC, senior pastor, Bear Swamp Baptist Church, Pembroke, N.C.

  • Steve Gaines, senior pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.

  • Gene Henderson, Mississippi Baptist pastor and leader, Pinelake Church, Brandon, Miss.

  • Paul Kim, Asian American relations consultant for the SBC, pastor emeritus, Antioch Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass.

  • Ed Litton, Redemption Church, North Mobile, Ala.

  • Ted Traylor, senior pastor, Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.

  • A.B. Vines, former president, National African American Fellowship of the SBC, senior pastor, New Seasons Church, Spring Valley, Calif.

  • K. Marshall Williams, president, National African American Fellowship of the SBC, senior pastor, Nazarene Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pa.

Floyd and Young both spoke at an Aug. 25th event at First Baptist Church in Jackson honoring the witness of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where a gunman killed the pastor and eight others at an evening Bible study June 17. Racial reconciliation was also a topic of prayer at the 2015 SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, on the eve of the Charleston shooting.
 
Registration information is available at missionmississippi.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

10/27/2015 11:43:09 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mission news pioneer Bob Stanley, 86, dies

October 27 2015 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

Robert L. (Bob) Stanley, missionary and newspaperman, thought the stories of Southern Baptist missions should be reported with compelling detail, accuracy and professionalism. So he set out to make it happen.
 
Stanley, 86, who died Oct. 21 in Fort Smith, Ark., after an extended illness, was a veteran news reporter – editor for the Dallas Times Herald and journalism professor when he became a missionary to the Philippines in 1966. In the decades that followed, he would use all of his experience and insight to train a generation of mission communicators.
 
As International Mission Board (then Foreign Mission Board) director of news and information from 1977 until his retirement in 1994, Stanley greatly expanded the entity’s scope of reporting and mission storytelling. He built and trained a staff of Richmond-based writers, and, with former Baptist Press journalist Robert O’Brien, helped create a network of missionary overseas correspondents based around the world. Overseas-based missionary photographers and videographers later were added to the team.
 
Stanley’s ambitious efforts were launched with the encouragement of then-IMB President R. Keith Parks, elected in 1980, who saw the potential of effective storytelling in mobilizing Southern Baptists for missions.

 
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IMB photo
Robert L. (Bob) Stanley, who helped build the modern news operation that reports the stories of Southern Baptist international missions, died Oct. 21. He was 86.

“Bob had a rare combination of qualifications to lead” the mission reporting initiative, Parks said. “His congenial personality was wrapped around a keen mind that was focused on his task. His preparation included editorial experience on a major newspaper, teaching journalism at a nationally recognized university and international mission experience. He skillfully invested all of these elements in developing an unsurpassed press service recognized for its integrity, accuracy and effectiveness.”
 
Stanley and his news staff and field correspondents teamed up with the writers and photographers of the board’s magazine, The Commission (led by then-editor Leland Webb), to report on the work of missionaries in greater depth and breadth. Previously, a few editors and writers in Richmond had relied on a patchy network of enthusiastic – but mostly amateur – missionary “press representatives,” who sent in reports on mission work when they found the time.
 
Stanley, himself a press rep when he served as a media missionary in the Philippines with his wife Nora from 1966-76, came to the IMB staff with strong ideas about how to improve the global reporting system. He expressed them quietly, but people got the message.
 
“I’ll never forget the early days after Bob Stanley came to be the director of the news office,” said former IMB writer and editor Irma Duke. “I was in my 20s and quite awed by this news leader with such love for the Lord and passion for good journalism. I was editing, or maybe rewriting, a story that had come from the field. A rather important fact was missing, but this was fairly normal in those days. If the [overseas] office didn’t know the answer, or a missionary on furlough, then we went with what we had.
 
“But not with Bob. The news part of him immediately came to the top. He said, ‘We can’t send that out without all the information. Get the telephone number and call the press representative.’ I had never done that before. In those days, it meant finding a telephone number, hoping that it was close to the missionary’s home, and paying $9 a minute to talk. I was able to acquire the information and the story went out. The electronic age had hit the IMB news office and the quality of reporting had reached a new level.”
 
Anita Bowden, who eventually became IMB news director, was another rookie reporter at the time.
 
“I’ll always be grateful that Bob Stanley took a chance on a young woman fresh from grad school with little work experience,” Bowden said. “He taught me how to be a journalist. His professionalism and work ethic made up the standard to which I compared myself throughout my career – and often came up short.”
 
Art Toalston, senior editor of Baptist Press, had 10 years of newspaper reporting and education experience when he joined the IMB news staff in 1985. But Stanley, Toalston observed, “demonstrated a level of professional competence that I had never seen in any of the newspapers where I had worked.”
 

No excuses

If you wanted to write for him, Stanley insisted on checking facts, correcting grammar and spelling and meeting deadlines – for starters. Those basics were the writer’s responsibility before submitting a story, not the editor’s. No excuses. They were the building blocks for stories that might – with careful editing, rewriting and prayer – inspire a reader to support missions.
 
“He was an absolute bulldog on accuracy in articles, always insisting on checking facts and verifying everything possible,” recalled Mike Creswell, a former IMB overseas correspondent who now works with North Carolina Baptists. “He was passionate, in the best possible way, about journalism and he wanted you to be the same as you sent articles his way.”
 
Dan Beatty, director of IMB’s Commission Stories, said Stanley “expected and inspired the best from those who were fortunate enough to collaborate with him. To know that Bob was proud of the work that had been done was high praise, because it was not just about hitting deadlines and other professional givens, which he expected. It was seeing that the result of our work was life-changing.”
 
Stanley’s stare intimidated some young reporters. The blood-red ink he used in line-by-line editing humbled many. But he had other qualities that transcended his tough editor persona. Gentleness and compassion are two mentioned by writers he trained.
 
“At one point in my life, difficult circumstances had pulled me out of Southern Baptist journalism,” said Mark Kelly, a longtime IMB writer and editor. “I was working 70-hour weeks at an obscure small-town newspaper in northwest Arkansas. My family was struggling, especially with finances. We needed a better provision, and I needed to get reconnected with the calling God had placed on my life.
 
“When a news writer position came open at IMB, Bob felt impressed to hire me, but I had completely fallen off the radar. In fact, only one person in Arkansas Baptist leadership knew where I was. Bob kept looking for me until he found that person and could track me down. He was an instrument of God’s grace and deliverance in my life at a critical time. I could never repay the debt I owe him.”
 
Stanley’s relationship with writers and reporters, in other words, had a higher purpose than producing good copy. Michael Chute, a former IMB overseas correspondent who is now professor of journalism at California Baptist University, benefitted from Stanley’s guidance and saw its impact on others.
 
“He had a keen eye for individuals and their potential, and then took raw, budding journalists and helped them grow professionally and spiritually,” Chute said. “So many in the Southern Baptist Convention’s journalism ranks, even today, can point to Bob as their friend, teacher and mentor. He always wanted the best from all of his people, all the time, and used his gentle, godly strength to pull the best from people.”
 
Stanley was born in Denton, Texas. A high school Latin teacher noted his affinity for writing and urged him to take a journalism class. He was immediately drawn to the world of newspapers and became a student reporter and editor in high school and college. He received the bachelor of arts degree in journalism and English at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in Denton and the master of science degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill.
 
He started at the Dallas Times Herald as a copyreader on the telegraph desk in 1949. After a short stint in the Navy, he went back to the afternoon newspaper in 1954 as a reporter, eventually becoming assistant city news editor (the Times Herald ceased publication in 1991). Stanley returned to North Texas State as a journalism professor in 1960. He taught there for five years – and married one of his students, the former Nora Blan of McCurtain, Okla., in 1963. Three years later they were appointed missionaries to the Philippines. He served at the Baptist publication center in Manila and also did evangelistic work.
 
Stanley is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren. A memorial service was held Oct. 24 at First Baptist Church of Poteau, Okla.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges, IMB global correspondent, is one of the many journalists trained and mentored by Bob Stanley.)

10/27/2015 11:33:41 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Agreement increases understanding between seminaries

October 27 2015 by Rebekah Wahlberg, GGBTS

Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and John Ong, president of Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary, signed an agreement Oct. 8 for students and faculty to have the opportunity to pursue their education or research between the two schools.

 
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The agreement affirms the relationship of the two institutions as fellow Baptist entities and introduces a new way for students and faculty to take advantage of a multicultural experience.
 
“Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary shares the same vision as us, in that we want to be a blessing to our own nation but also to the nations,” Ong said. “Knowing that Golden Gate Seminary is concerned and is extending the opportunity for partnership is encouraging in that we are not alone and we can work together.”
 
The memo specifically lays out policies and guidelines for student admissions, faculty relationships and utilization of facilities between the two seminaries, enabling each to “enhance understanding between the two schools and to develop academic and cultural relationships in the areas of education, research, spiritual endeavors and other activities,” the memo states.
 
“We are delighted to work in partnership with the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary,” Iorg said. “It gives us an opportunity to invest ourselves in another school that we think is making a very significant contribution and also receive from them what they can do to encourage and help us develop programs that are more effective in the Chinese community.”

10/27/2015 11:29:10 AM by Rebekah Wahlberg, GGBTS | with 0 comments



Federal, state officials keep heat on PPFA

October 27 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Federal and state government officials are continuing their efforts to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for its trade in baby body parts.
 
The actions – in this case by the U.S. House of Representatives and the state of Texas – have come in response to revelations in undercover videos that show various Planned Parenthood officials in different locations discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The 10 videos released since mid-July include acknowledgements by Planned Parenthood employees of their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use. The videos also display evidence of the dissection of live babies outside the womb to remove organs
 
Among the government steps taken Oct. 19-23 regarding the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives again passed legislation to cut federal funds for Planned Parenthood, this time in an Oct. 23 vote on what is known as a reconciliation bill designed to gain easier approval in the Senate.

  • Speaker of the House John Boehner named eight Republican members on the same date to a special panel to investigate PPFA.

  • The Texas government informed Planned Parenthood Oct. 19 of its removal from the state’s Medicaid program, partially citing evidence provided in the undercover videos.

  • Texas health officials served subpoenas at Planned Parenthood clinics in the state Oct. 22, requesting patient and employee records.

Supporters of defunding PPFA applauded the actions.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), expressed his gratitude “that the video evidence of Planned Parenthood’s human piracy has stirred legislative and political action.”
 
“There is a very long way to go, but statewide defunding and serious congressional investigations are steps in the right direction,” Moore said. “I pray that the long-term effect of these videos is a cultural awakening to the value and personhood of all human life.”
 
The reconciliation process in Congress enables the Senate to pass a budget-related measure without the need for 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The House approved another bill to defund PPFA in September by a 241-187 vote, but the legislation was dead on arrival in the Senate because of the need for a super majority. In August, the Senate fell short on a defunding bill despite a 53-46 majority, because it failed to gain the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture, as it is known.
 
Though the House reconciliation bill is designed to require only 51 votes in the Senate, its fate in the upper chamber is uncertain. For one thing, three conservative, pro-life Republican members – Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida – have announced they will oppose the measure because it only partially repeals the health-care reform law of 2010. They are calling for full repeal of the controversial measure. Without their votes, the GOP majority has only 51 left, and a few of the remaining members are unlikely to support the bill.
 
If the legislation reaches President Barack Obama, he most certainly will veto it.
 
The reconciliation proposal reportedly would strip PPFA of about $400 million of its nearly $530 million annual take in government grants, contracts and reimbursements. The bill would reallocate funds taken from Planned Parenthood to approved community health centers.
 
Pro-life advocates hailed the House vote and urged the Senate to follow course.
 
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, thanked the House “for redirecting taxpayer money away from an abortion giant that engages in gruesome and unethical practices.”
 
“For our friends in the Senate who think the House bill is not strong enough, we encourage them to try and make the measure even better,” he said in a written statement. “The House leadership has said they will accept any improvements the Senate makes to the bill that [cut] much of Planned Parenthood’s funding and removes the heart of Obamacare.”
 
The ERLC’s Moore and 37 other pro-life leaders wrote congressional leaders Oct. 5 to encourage them to use the reconciliation process in an attempt to defund PPFA.
 
The eight GOP representatives selected by Boehner for the panel to investigate PPFA and trafficking in fetal parts consist of four women – Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black of Tennessee, Vicki Hartzler of Missouri and Mia Love of Utah – and four men – Reps. Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, Andy Harris of Maryland and Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania. Blackburn will chair the panel, which will operate under the Energy and Commerce Committee.
 
Texas terminated Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program because state health officials determined its affiliates “are no longer capable of performing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner,” according to a letter from Stuart Bowen, inspector general of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).
 
The reasons cited by Bowen are:

  • Undercover videos revealed PPFA is willing to change the “timing or method of an abortion” in obtaining fetal tissue, thereby violating federal law and Medicaid policy.

  • Clinics failed to abide by health and safety standards for handling fetal tissue.

  • Evidence exists of fraud committed by Planned Parenthood clinics, including illegal billing.

Funds no longer going to PPFA affiliates are now available to health-care providers in the state.
 
“Texas is right to recognize that taxpayer money should go to fund local community health centers, not to subsidize a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business,” said Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
 
Texas joins five states – Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Utah – that have eliminated funds for Planned Parenthood since the video releases by the Center for Medical Progress began. Planned Parenthood is expected to challenge Texas in court, as it has others states that have defunded its affiliates.
 
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, told Fox News he hopes “for a legal challenge here, because I want to get these Planned Parenthood officials under oath and get them to swear about the practices that they were conducting in the state of Texas.”
 
Officials with the Texas HHSC appeared with subpoenas at five Planned Parenthood centers Oct. 22, according to The Houston Chronicle. They went to two clinics in Houston and one each in Brownsville, Dallas and San Antonio.
 
PPFA announced Oct. 13 its centers no longer would accept federal reimbursement for expenses accrued in tissue donations from aborted babies, but its critics said the action served as an admission of guilt and should not halt the effort to defund the organization.
 
PPFA and its affiliates received more than $528 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements, according to its latest financial report (2013-14). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed more than 327,000 abortions during 2013, making it the largest abortion provider in the country.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

Related Stories:

PPFA change shows its guilt, pro-lifers say
Planned Parenthood by the numbers
Planned Parenthood’s problems go beyond organ sales

10/27/2015 11:22:41 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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