October 2015

Texas Baptists’ $1M would deploy IMB missionaries to Houston

October 26 2015 by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries returning from the mission field as part of a voluntary staff reduction could find immediate opportunities to reach ethnic people groups in one of America’s most diverse megacities – Houston.
 
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s (SBTC) Executive Board will consider a recommendation in its November meeting to set aside $1 million to facilitate returning missionaries as church planters or church revitalizers for the convention’s Reach Houston initiative.

 
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“Reach Houston is a SBTC plan to increase church planting and revitalization in the greater Houston area,” Executive Director Jim Richards said.
 
“With Houston being the most ethnically diverse city in the United States,” Richards said, “there is a need for language and cultural skills possessed by IMB personnel who have already served among the various people groups of the world.”
 
Richards also noted that Houston’s burgeoning population “calls for all types of churches to be planted as well as revitalization of existing churches in multi-ethnic neighborhoods by intentionally helping churches to become multi-ethnic congregations.”
 
Richards estimates the $1 million could support as many as 25 church planters and church revitalizers. The administrative committee of the convention’s Executive Board will present the proposal, which would be taken out of reserve funds, for approval during the board’s Nov. 11 fall meeting.
 
Robert Welch Jr., chairman of the administrative committee and pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, said, “The missionaries coming off the field as a result of the IMB’s VRI [Voluntary Retirement Incentive] bring huge ministry opportunities to stateside churches and communities. While the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) family of churches prays for those who will be in transition, we also believe that it’s important for the SBC family to consider ways they can open ministry opportunities for them.
 
“Houston is a very diverse city with many of the world’s people groups residing the city,” Welch said. “IMB missionaries are some of the most highly trained and highly cultured leaders that we have in the SBC. We believe that by providing these missionaries with opportunities for church planting and revitalization in Houston, we could see a ministry surge that could have transformational Kingdom impact throughout Houston.”
 
SBTC is currently seeking a Reach Houston coordinator to live in the city and direct church planting and revitalization efforts. During the search, former SBTC missions director Terry Coy will serve as interim coordinator.
 
“Although we know the adjustment for many returning missionaries could be difficult, we are excited that God is going to use this time to join some of the returning missionaries with SBTC’s focus on reaching Houston,” said Coy, who grew up in Chile as a child of Southern Baptist missionaries.
 
“The revitalization and church planting needs in the Houston area are great. We are asking the Lord to call the right people with the right experience to join with us in this Kingdom adventure. Look forward to great things!”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

10/26/2015 12:58:24 PM by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hurricane Patricia sets records, wreaks havoc

October 26 2015 by IMB staff

The International Mission Board (IMB) is asking for prayer for those living along Mexico’s Pacific Coast. On Oct. 23 Hurricane Patricia became the most powerful tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, according to the Weather Channel.
 
Mexican authorities issued a state of emergency for 56 municipalities, evacuating as many as 50,000 people in the path of the storm that strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane with winds reaching 165 mph as it made landfall.
 
“Pray for the people all along the path of this hurricane on Mexico’s western coast, including our Mexican brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Terry Lassiter, strategy leader for IMB’s American peoples affinity group. “Our IMB personnel are outside the hurricane’s target area. They are either currently stateside or in Central Mexico.”
 
David Brown, Baptist Global Response (BGR) area director for Americas, said BGR is monitoring the situation as it develops and is communicating with partners about coordinating a response. IMB is one of Baptist Global Response’s partners in relief and development efforts.
 
“That area of Mexico is no stranger to storms and is well prepared to deal with the emergency,” Brown said. “In the past, the Mexican government has done an excellent job of providing relief in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane.
 
“We do anticipate responding to needs created by the storm and if needed will communicate with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network about ways volunteer teams might be involved in the post-Patricia recovery and rebuilding effort,” he said. “Please pray for the families who live in the path of the storm. Ask God to preserve life and to make His love known as they rebuild their lives in the aftermath.”
 
Only one Category 5 hurricane has been known to make landfall on Mexico’s Pacific coast, according to The Weather Channel. That hurricane followed a path similar to that of Hurricane Patricia and struck near Puerto Vallarta in late October 1959, causing at least 1,800 deaths. A Category 5 hurricane has not posed an imminent threat to land in North America since Hurricane Felix approached Nicaragua in September 2007.
 
Hurricane Patricia is among the most rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones, particularly dangerous because in addition to its 200 mph sustained wind speed, it has the lowest pressure of any hurricane on record. Generally, the lower the pressure of a hurricane, the more intense its capacity for wind damage.
 
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Hurricane Patricia is just 15 mph shy of tying the all-time record strongest tropical cyclone for the globe based on maximum sustained winds. Typhoon Nancy holds that record with maximum sustained winds of 215 mph on Sept. 12, 1961.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was submitted by IMB’s communications team. Donations to the relief effort can be made at gobgr.org/donate/product-detail/3717.)

10/26/2015 12:50:45 PM by IMB staff | with 0 comments



GOP hopefuls preach politics at Texas megachurch

October 26 2015 by Katie Gaultney, World News Service

Six Republican presidential hopefuls descended on a north Texas megachurch Oct. 18 to appeal for support from what should be a dependable voting bloc. But during the event, hosted by Prestonwood Baptist Church and the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the ability of evangelicals to affect political change was as much on stage as the candidates.
 
More than a decade ago, conservative Christians dominated American politics. Today, it’s a different era, and Bible-believing Christians appear to have lost their powers of political persuasion. The number of Americans identifying as Christian is on the decline: A Pew Research Center study released in May shows an 8 percent drop over the last seven years among U.S. adults identifying as Christian. Meanwhile, the same study found the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is on the upswing.
 
According to Jack Graham, senior pastor of the 40,000-member church hosting yesterday’s event, this changing religious landscape makes it ever more important for Christians to educate themselves on candidates’ positions and align behind those who will lead according to biblical principles.

 
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Ben Carson

“In the last presidential election, many evangelical Christians did not vote,” Graham said. “I’ve heard all kinds of numbers, maybe up to 8 million.” But he said he sensed Christians now are “fired up” and “ready to do a lot better” in 2016.
 
At the carefully choreographed North Texas Presidential Forum, more than 6,000 attendees and 10,000 online viewers watched candidates speak for 10 minutes each about their faith then field questions from Graham on a range of topics. The pastor touched on Middle East policy, entitlements, the fiscal gap, abortion, religious liberty and national security. At no point did candidates appear together on stage. Republican front-runner Donald Trump was notably absent, as were Democratic Party favorites Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, all of whom declined organizers’ invitations to participate
 
Carly Fiorina was first out of the gate, earning strong applause from the crowd for repeatedly advocating the election of a leader who would “restore the character of this nation.” The former Hewlett-Packard CEO also shared very personal reasons for her support for pro-life policies – from watching the harmful emotional, physical and spiritual effects abortion had on a friend, to her own mother-in-law being told by doctors she should abort Fiorina’s now husband.
 
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Southern Baptist and Texan, held the home court advantage, as evidenced by the six standing ovations the crowd gave him. Cruz played to the audience, citing his “pastor’s kid” status and reminding attendees of his often oppositional stance to Congress, listing Obamacare, “illegal amnesty” and Planned Parenthood as examples. He also invoked Trump, suggesting the front-runner is asking the most important question in the campaign.
 
“Donald has framed the central issue in this primary as, ‘Who will stand up to Washington?’ and if that’s the central issue, the next question is, ‘Who actually has stood up to Washington?’” Cruz said. “And I can’t think of a better question to decide this race, because in that regard, my record is markedly different from anyone else.”
 
Rivaling Cruz in standing ovations was former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who called himself an “evangelical Catholic” and touted his track record of promoting right-to-life issues, battling the Affordable Care Act, authoring sanctions against Iran, implementing health savings accounts, and most recently producing Christian films. He compared himself to Ronald Reagan, saying just as Reagan cemented his position as an opponent to communism before assuming the presidency, Santorum is making himself known as an enemy of radical Islam.
 
“ISIS knows who I am, Iran knows who I am, and when I get sworn into office in January, the enemies of America will know who they have to deal with,” he said.
 
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also found himself in friendly territory on Sunday: Prestonwood’s Graham endorsed him for president in 2008. More than any other candidate, Huckabee focused on foreign policy.
 
“I’m not unfamiliar with the region,” he said of the Middle East. “But I’m also very familiar with the fact that the only ally we have in that region that’s reliable is Israel. And we have put more pressure on Israel to stop building bedrooms in Judea and Samaria than we put on Iran to stop building nuclear devices that will one day be aimed at us, and that is an irrational act of madmen.”
 
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Seventh-Day Adventist, shared his story of faith, talking candidly about how his failed attempt as a young man to stab someone in a fit of anger ultimately caused him to question his life’s purpose and drew him to the Bible. He also laughed about how, after 15,000 surgeries, he was looking forward to retirement, and then “the National Prayer Breakfast happened.” That event catapulted him to national prominence for taking President Barack Obama to task while sharing a stage with him.
 
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a practicing Roman Catholic for two decades, identified the church concept of subsidiarity as influential in his political philosophy, which he described as solving problems “from the bottom up” – first in families, then community, then government, starting at the local level.
 
“We’ve made it harder for families to make decisions for themselves,” Bush said. “Our communities are hollowed out in many places. Institutions that used to keep us together no longer have the same value, and our government is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, particularly in Washington, D.C.”
 
Bush highlighted his efforts as governor to “shift power from government back to the family,” including reducing the size of the state’s government through career civil service reform and providing statewide voucher programs for school choice.
 
Concluding the event, Graham encouraged his congregation to take an active role in the political process: “An educated voter will make the right decision, and Christian voters need to be informed.”
 
Myanmar readies for election that could topple army-backed government
 

Related Story:

Faith, religious liberty among presidential forum topics

10/26/2015 12:41:05 PM by Katie Gaultney, World News Service | with 0 comments



Study: Pastors grow more polarized on Islam

October 26 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research

Protestant pastors are increasingly polarized about Islam, with a growing share labeling the Muslim faith violent while a sharply rising minority calls it spiritually good, a new study shows.
 
Although a majority considers Islam dangerous, a small but increasing segment believes Islam is similar to Christianity, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research.
 
And two-thirds of Protestant pastors agree Christianity and Islam should seek to coexist in America.
 
The softening of some pastors’ views toward Islam is a key finding of a LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors. Seventeen percent of pastors characterize Islam as similar to Christianity, nearly double the 9 percent from five years earlier. Although views shifted in both directions, positive opinions rose more significantly.
 
The American public, meanwhile, is twice as likely as pastors to see common ground between Islam and Christianity. In a parallel survey of 1,000 Americans, more than a third say the two faiths are similar.

 
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“To understand the data, you have to understand that Protestant pastors are not of one mind,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, “and minds are changing in more than one direction.”
 

Shifting views

While more than 8 in 10 Protestant pastors say Islam is fundamentally different from Christianity, just as they did in 2010, minority viewpoints are increasing, LifeWay Research finds.
 
Compared to five years ago, pastors are much more likely to describe Islam in favorable terms. Fifty percent say Islam promotes charity, up from 33 percent. Significant numbers also describe Islam as spiritually good (32 percent, up from 19 percent), tolerant (24 percent, up from 16 percent), and open (22 percent, up from 12 percent.)
 
Negative opinions are also on the rise, although the shift is less dramatic. A slim majority considers Islam dangerous (52 percent, up from 44 percent). Almost half say Islam promotes violence (49 percent, up from 42 percent) and is spiritually evil (46 percent, up from 39 percent).
 
Stetzer explained, “Some mainline pastors and a few evangelicals are answering questions in a more positive way, while some evangelicals and a few mainline Protestants are trending in a negative way. But the biggest move is in the smallest percent – and is in a more positive direction.”
 
The surveys allowed pastors to choose positive and negative terms to describe Islam, and pastors chose more of both this year than they did in LifeWay Research’s survey five years ago. Fewer pastors opted for “none of these.”
 
In the most pointed increase, 53 percent of pastors say Islam is “relevant today,” an opinion held by only 28 percent five years earlier.
 
“It only makes sense that Islam is relevant today – it’s on the evening news regularly. What’s perhaps most interesting is that the majority of that coverage is negative, but some pastors still evidence a more positive perception,” Stetzer said.
 
“Furthermore, it is worth noting that while pastors appear to be increasingly familiar with Islam,” Stetzer said, “the same large majority recognizes unmistakable differences between Islam and Christianity.”
 

Moving apart

Evangelical and mainline pastors hold divergent opinions about Islam. Most self-identified evangelical ministers view it as a violent and dangerous faith, while most self-identified mainline pastors associate it with peace, love and compassion.
 
The gap has widened in the past five years.
 
Fifty-two percent of evangelical pastors today characterize Islam as spiritually evil (up from 44 percent), while only 32 percent of mainline pastors agree, a rate unchanged from five years ago.
 
Conversely, nearly half of mainline pastors call Islam spiritually good (47 percent, up from 35 percent). Fewer than 1 in 4 evangelical pastors share that opinion (24 percent, up from 16 percent).
 
Evangelical pastors increasingly say Islam is dangerous (59 percent, up from 50 percent) and promotes violence (54 percent, up from 49 percent), while mainline pastors’ views on those terms are little changed. In contrast, growing numbers of mainline pastors say Islam is tolerant (35 percent, up from 25 percent) and open (30 percent, up from 18 percent), while evangelical pastors’ agreement with those terms rises only slightly.
 
Asked which of two well-known descriptions is closer to their beliefs, 59 percent of evangelical pastors choose evangelist Franklin Graham’s characterization of Islam as “a very evil and a very wicked religion,” while 51 percent of mainline pastors choose former President George W. Bush’s comment, “the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.”
 
“While these quotes are hardly new, they still embody opposite perspectives held by different theological groups of Christian leaders,” Stetzer said.
 

Americans’ views

Though pastors don’t see eye to eye on Islam, an even larger chasm divides them from the American public.
 
While 83 percent of Protestant pastors believe Islam is fundamentally different from Christianity, only 44 percent of Americans agree. Almost as many Americans (34 percent) consider the two faiths similar.
 
Overall, Americans tend to be more sympathetic than pastors toward Islam. They are less likely than both mainline and evangelical pastors to view Islam as dangerous, violent or spiritually evil.
 
But for most Americans, Islam isn’t a black-and-white issue, LifeWay Research finds. Their uncertainty is evident throughout the survey.
 
While 31 percent of Americans say Islam is tolerant, almost as many (26 percent) say it promotes violence. Equal numbers find Islam to be dangerous and open (29 percent each).
 
Not a single characteristic – positive or negative – gains agreement from a majority, and 13 percent of Americans remain entirely undecided, choosing “none of these.”
 
Americans are also unsure whether Christians and Muslims pray to the same God – 46 percent say yes, while 47 percent say no.
 
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 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 sub-groups.
 
The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 8-21, 2015. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches in America. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region 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 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
 
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 – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)

10/26/2015 12:19:08 PM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Texas launches investigation against Planned Parenthood

October 26 2015 by Leigh Jones, World News Service

Texas officials investigating allegations of Medicaid fraud served subpoenas at three Planned Parenthood facilities on Oct. 22, demanding copies of employee and patient records.
 
Although state officials declined to give details about the investigation, employees at Planned Parenthood centers in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston told the Austin-American Statesman investigators gave them 24 hours to turn over the data.

 
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Planned Parenthood’s critics have long accused the abortion giant of illegally using state and federal funds to cover abortion costs. In 2013, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast reached a settlement with then-Attorney General Greg Abbott over fraud allegations, paying Texas $1.3 million to keep the case from going to trial. As part of the settlement, the organization denied any wrongdoing.
 
But Abby Johnson a former Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro-life activist, believes the organization has improperly billed the Texas Women’s Health Program as much as $5.7 million. She filed suit against her former employer over the fraud in 2012.
 
“I am confident that these investigators will find enough information to not only continue to defund Planned Parenthood in our state, but to also disqualify them from any future funding efforts,” Johnson told LifeSiteNews today.
 
On Oct. 19, Texas announced it would remove Planned Parenthood from the state Medicaid reimbursement program, in part due to comments made by its executives on undercover videos shot by pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The letter delivered to Planned Parenthood said it lacked the ability to ethically provide safe, competent and legal services.
 
Abbott, now the state’s governor, said that Planned Parenthood’s “barbaric practice” of harvesting babies for research must end. CMP’s videos show Planned Parenthood abortionists talking about ways to get the best “specimens” and how much money each baby body part is worth. Selling fetal tissue is a felony. Planned Parenthood has claimed the money it gets only covers collection costs and does not make the organization any profit. But last week, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards announced it would stop taking payments and provide the tissue for free.
 
After the raids, a Planned Parenthood representative said state officials are just looking for an excuse to take healthcare away from men and women in Texas.
 
“Despite their efforts to distort the truth, healthcare – no matter what – is what happens at Planned Parenthood,” Yvonne Gutierrez, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in a statement.

10/26/2015 12:10:52 PM by Leigh Jones, World News Service | with 0 comments



Houston pastors fight gender-bending Equal Rights Ordinance

October 23 2015 by Bonnie Pritchett, World New Service

The diverse group of pastors who fought a year-long battle to get a controversial anti-discrimination ordinance on the upcoming ballot won a seemingly impossible legal fight with outgoing Mayor Annise Parker. But the most daunting task may still lie ahead – getting Houstonians, especially members of their congregations, to vote.
 
The Houston Area Pastors Council (HAPC) and conservative civic leaders have launched radio and TV advertisements, hosted a mayoral forum, and will distribute a voters’ guide ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Last week, HAPC held a news conference to demonstrate the unity within the racially, denominationally, and politically diverse coalition opposed to the Equal Rights Ordinance (ERO), which makes sexuality and gender identity protected classes. Pastors representing 150 churches gathered at the 70,000-member Second Baptist Church on Oct. 7 to make clear their opposition to Proposition 1 and urge Christians to do their civic duty and vote.
 
“The church has been silent,” Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist, told me. “Either we’re complacent, either we have not tuned in, or we’ve thought somebody else will do it. The Bible teaches us to be responsible citizens.”
 
Proposition 1 and this year’s mayoral race are expected to draw a higher than normal voter turnout. But “normal” should not be an acceptable number, said Dave Welch, HAPC executive director. A 2013 get-out-the-vote campaign by HAPC to unseat Parker failed to draw a substantial number of voters to the polls. Only 18 percent of registered voters cast ballots, up from 13 percent in 2011, and Parker won reelection to her third, final, and most contentious term.
 
The results perplexed Khanh Huynh. In the Vietnam he fled in 1979, citizens were intimidated into voting for specific candidates.
 
“As Vietnamese we know [voting] is a privilege,” said Huynh, who pastors Vietnamese Baptist Church. “I cannot understand that in a city the size of Houston that the voting percentage is so low.”
 
The lack of civic engagement by Christians exasperates Welch. Complacency has earned the church the cultural conflicts it now faces, he said. But Welch insists a paradigm shift is underway.
 
“The churches and pastors are finally recognizing that we do have a role to speak to the culture,” he said. “Our salt duty is just as important as our light.”
 
But salt can be an irritant. The ordinance fight has put the church community at odds with some of Houston’s most powerful business interests. The Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), a 1,200-member business association that has endorsed the ordinance since its inception, warns a Prop 1 defeat will portray Houston as bigoted and result in economic turmoil that could cost the city the 2016 NCAA Final Four and the 2017 Super Bowl.
 
But a $10,000 donation this week from Houston Texans owner Bob McNair to Campaign for Houston, the group formed to defeat Prop 1, flies in the face of that argument. Jared Woodfill, campaign co-chair, called GHP’s argument a scare tactic with no evidence to support it.
 
“If there was any chance in us losing the Super Bowl, I don’t think he would take this position,” Woodfill said of McNair’s donation. “Many members of the Greater Houston Partnership are some of our biggest contributors.”
 
Churches are using the ordinance controversy as a teachable moment, registering their members to vote and then urging them to go to the polls.
 
Prop 1 opponents are pressing the gender identity issue with a “No men in women’s bathrooms” ad campaign. They warn male sexual predators could use the ordinance to their advantage by dressing as women in order to gain access to women’s bathrooms. Parker denies the law gives permission for that and accused her opponents of using scare tactics to gain support.
 
But in a mayoral forum hosted by HAPC on Sept. 17, the four leading contenders in the mayor’s race admitted the ordinance permits biological males to enter women’s bathrooms. Candidate Chris Bell was quick to add he disagreed with fears about sexual assault. He then asked where a transgender person was supposed to use the bathroom.
 
“As a male, I would find it a little bit creepy if a transgender individual in a dress came to use the restroom next to me at the Texans game,” Bell said. “I think that would be a little bit disturbing.”
 
When asked after the forum what consideration he would give to women and girls who felt the same way, Bell called the situation a “non-issue.”
 
But Ben Hall, a former City of Houston attorney and mayoral candidate opposed to the ordinance, said the opponents’ fears are valid.
 
“Not only does [a man] have the right under this ordinance to go into the restroom but he has the legal protection not to be removed from the restroom,” Hall said.
 
Houston clergy who affirm homosexuality and transgenderism also have taken to the airwaves calling Houstonians to vote “Yes” on Proposition 1. In an ad claiming “we’re all God’s children,” two pastors and their wives assert their Christian convictions compel them to treat “all people fairly.” But in reading a partial list of the 15 protected classes named under the ordinance, the pastors blatantly omit the major point of contention – gender identity.
 
Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, said opposition is not about discrimination.
 
“This proposition is not about people getting loans for homes. It’s not about people getting a car. It’s not about whether they’re hired to work at a job,” Matte said. “It’s about the normalization of gender confusion. That’s what it’s about.”
 
During the Oct. 7 press conference, Huynh made a somber plea to Houstonians.
 
“I am here to say to you we need to rise up and fight,” said Huynh. “I challenge people in my church and say, ‘If you Vietnamese, who fought in the war in Vietnam, if you have any fight left inside of you, rise up and fight for this. Say ‘no’ to this ordinance.’”

 

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10/23/2015 1:34:34 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, World New Service | with 0 comments



Baptists reach bikers at BBB

October 23 2015 by Caleb Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News

Hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders recently converged on northwest Arkansas to take part in Bikes, Blues and BBQ (BBB), one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the country. Southern Baptists from across Arkansas and beyond used the event as an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ.
 
Now in its 16th year, BBB is held each fall. The rally bills itself as “the largest motorcycle rally in the United States benefitting local charities.” It was estimated that 2014’s rally saw more than 400,000 visitors to Fayetteville and surrounding communities.
 
Due to BBB, for four days each year, Fayetteville becomes Arkansas’ largest city, and arguably, its largest mission field. As in years past, Arkansas Baptists partnered with Baptists from multiple other states in ministering to the mass of bikers and onlookers.
 
Faith Riders is a national motorcycle club organization started in Florida and made up of mostly Southern Baptist bikers from across the country. Jeff Hairston is the director of the northwest Arkansas chapter of Faith Riders based at Cross Church, which operates a booth at the heart of BBB each year.
 
“On Saturday night, God showed up and showed out,” said Hairston. “In the last 90 minutes, 20 people came under the tent and were saved. We had people that needed prayer for marriages, for addictions, for jobs.”
 
“We were so busy at 10 o’clock that we couldn’t even close the tent,” he added.
 
Hairston said the Faith Riders volunteers working in and around the tent gave personal 3-minute testimonies to 1,069 people and saw 90 people accept Christ during the rally.
 
The Faith Riders booth had 85 volunteers from across Arkansas and other states including Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Tennessee. Over the four-day event, the volunteers put in about 880 man-hours witnessing, prayer walking and maintaining the recycling for the entire BBB event, a service that allows the group to use a tent free of charge.
 
Hairston said after this year’s event, one of the riders from Alabama told him, “‘I just wanted you to know. We have prayed about it as a group as we were coming home, and we want you to know that whatever you need next year, we will be back, God-willing, and we are going to bring more people with us.’”
 
In 2016, Hairston plans to have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle as a giveaway at the Faith Riders tent. According to the success of such a giveaway at other rallies, Hairston hopes it will increase the number of individuals that come by the tent by three to six times, meaning 3,000-6,000 people hearing a personal presentation of the gospel.
 
“As far as the number of people that usually accept Christ, it is usually between 8 and 10 percent of the people that you share with,” said Hairston. “We could be looking at 600 people accepting Christ in this three-and-a-half days that we are there sharing testimonies.”
 
Hairston said each individual who accepted Christ at the Faith Riders booth will receive a follow-up phone call from the volunteer who led him or her to the Lord. These individuals’ contact information will also be passed along to churches and ministries in and around their residences in order to help them find local churches to get plugged in to.
 
First Baptist Church, Fayetteville, which is located on Dickson Street, the main drag of the city where most of the BBB festivities take place, holds a bike wash each year during the rally. Rick McCoy is a member of First Baptist and one of the organizers of the event.
 
McCoy said this year is the 13th year that First Baptist has hosted its bike wash outreach. He said that this year five people accepted Christ as a result of the bike wash outreach.
 
“We have a breakfast on Saturday morning, and we had over 200 people. We probably had close to 50-plus volunteers. The GAs (Girls in Action) helped us with the breakfast for about the last six years or so. They take it on as a project,” said McCoy.
 
“We give out patches, John 3:16 patches, and pins that go on their jackets. We have the church open, and we let them use our bathrooms and we wash their bikes. We don’t take any donations or anything for any of it. It is all free,” he said.
 
“We see how God is working,” said McCoy. “I have been riding motorcycles since I was 8 years old, and if you get on one of those, it’s kind of dangerous. I tell a lot of kids on those fast (bikes), ‘crotch rockets’ that I call them, that you need to know the Lord pretty close.”
 
The South Main Baptist Church, Crossett, chapter of Faith Riders was among the volunteers involved in First Baptist’s bike wash. It was the fourth year that volunteers from South Main Baptist had come up from south Arkansas to share Christ and minister during BBB.
 
Stephanie Copes, member of South Main Baptist and board member of the Arkansas Baptist News, was among the 10 volunteers from the church who participated in the bike wash.
 
“I got to take my teenage daughter with us this year, and she got to help wash bikes. Myself and her, my husband and two of the gentlemen there from First Baptist actually got to pray with a woman who was about to have surgery,” said Copes. “It was really humbling to see her come to us and just say, ‘Hey, can you lay hands on us and pray for me?’”
 
Copes said that in addition to working with First Baptist’s bike wash, South Main’s Faith Riders chapter had a tent set up in which they gave away “Man of God” tire gauges and motorcycle-themed Christian literature.
 
Larry King, a member of South Main Baptist and its Faith Riders chapter, was one of the first volunteers to get involved with First Baptist’s bike wash ministry when it began more than a decade ago.
 
“So many people are against motorcycle rallies because they think the people are just so bad. But we tell them that everybody needs Jesus,” said King. “I tell them, What do you think Jesus would do if He walked up here? … He said, ‘It’s not the healthy that need help; it’s the sick.’”
 
“We try to tell the people in the churches that God is sending them to you and you ought to get out there and witness to them. We need more people to witness to the lost,” said King. “So many of the church members will run – ‘Let’s get away from here, leave town; I don’t want to mess with them.’”
 
“The first two bikers that rolled in here, from Omaha, Neb., they came to get their bikes washed. … We were washing their bikes, and Rick (McCoy) witnessed to them and led both of them to the Lord. And that is the whole purpose of the bike wash,” said King.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caleb Yarbrough is the assistant editor at the Arkansas Baptist News.)

10/23/2015 1:28:34 PM by Caleb Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments



Tips to reach internationals in U.S.

October 23 2015 by Susie Rain, IMB Connections

Sharing the Good News with the Tibetan people of the Himalayas has never been easier. You don’t have to trek the world’s highest mountain range to get to them because some live right here in the United States – Queens, N.Y., to be exact!
 
Most of the world’s 6,000-plus unreached people groups (less than 2 percent follow Jesus) can be found in neighborhoods throughout the United States. This global migration gives the American church opportunities like never before to reach a lost world.
 
These international neighbors usually speak a different language. They follow another religion. Their culture is not the same. So where does a Christian even begin to make an impact?
 
Readers answered this question via social media and offered these tips and resources:

 
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International students hang out at Levi and Jenifer Perkins farm in Kansas. "Share your everyday-normal life including how Christ is a part of it," Jenifer advised. "International students want to know."

Start a conversation. Become friends.

Sometimes just opening your mouth is difficult when you don’t have a common language. But let’s be honest. Walking up to any stranger – let alone someone from another country – can be intimidating. Laurel Duty, a college student from Mississippi, pointed out, “Everyone just wants a friend and someone they can trust, especially when you are far from home. We, as believers, can be that person.”
 
Tips:

  • Ask for someone’s story. They will tell it if you will listen. – Morgan, Texas

  • Ask how things are going or if they have needs. If you don’t know the people around you, you will never know their needs, their hurts and you will never know how to share the love of Christ. – Nicholas Pepper, Georgia

  • Don’t blast people with the Bible from the first sentence. That’s off-putting to anyone. Show Christ’s love by being interested in them as a person. – Abigail Elizalde, Massachusetts

Take the first step and ask a simple question like, “What does the henna (temporary dye art) on your hand mean?” Who knows? Maybe your next conversation will lead to a henna party with women from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East using patterns that depict Bible stories.
 

Be intentional. Share Jesus.

Nikki White spent years showing people Jesus in her life but never put “intentionality” to her actions until an Oklahoma pastor challenged her. “I had never sat down and actually talked about heaven and hell,” she recalled. “I expected people to intuitively understand by watching. It doesn’t work that way. You need to be intentional in meeting people, knowing their needs and sharing the gospel.”
 
Tips:

  • Look for ways to share scripture. Make sure it is bi-lingual so you are helping them learn English, but they can better understand in their own language – Dean Sides, Alabama

  • Look for local events that attract immigrants. There’s an international soccer tournament in our town. We mingle and develop long-term relationships. – Katherine Pullen, Tennessee

  • Ask about needs. That’s how my church hosted a two-week tutoring camp for immigrant children. Parents also come to a “parenting in America” class. – Becky Gilbert, Georgia

  • Frequent a gas station, restaurant or shop owned by internationals. Our men’s group has a morning Bible study at a convenience store owned by an Indian man. He now joins them. – Susan Bryant, Kentucky

Transitioning from a polite or casual conversation to the gospel is a common barrier, especially if the other person is from a very different religion. Getting2Gospel provides and aid to be intentional in three easy steps using Romans 6:23 (southasianpeoples.imb.org/resources/view/getting2gospel).

 
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Ethiopian students crowd around a Georgia volunteer. Rehoboth Baptist Church asked what need they could meet and Ethiopian community members asked if they could help prepare their kids for school.

Call your local university. Host an international student.

When Neisha Roberts took a new job in Alabama, she called the local university to see if there were any students from Thailand. She had just returned from serving two years with the IMB and wanted to continue ministering to Buddhists. Reaching out to international students is a great way to impact a lost world. Most plan to return home and can take the gospel – or a seed planted in their heart – back with them.
 
Tips:

  • Invite students to hang out with your family. They want to experience American culture and life. This is where you connect. – Levi and Jenifer Perkins, Kansas

  • Offer extra help with English. Students already know it well enough to be in class, but often have a hard time with subject specific vocab – such as medical students learning medical terms. – Dean Side, Alabama

  • College kids never turn down food. I always take my international friends from the dorm with me to church when there’s a dinner. – Jacob Pruett, Mississippi

Jenifer Perkins noticed in their student program at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., that students love to attend church with their host families but not when it’s the only thing you invite them to do. The students feel disappointed, like they didn’t really experience America. One may avoid this pitfall by allowing students to see God in all aspects of your life.
 

Hospitality. Share a meal.

Most international neighbors come from cultures where hospitality and relationships are central to life. When they come to America, they often feel disconnected, isolated and alone. Inviting them into homes, serving them and treating them with love can be a vital first step in sharing the gospel.
 
Tips:

  • Get past the surface stuff and be a part of their lives. One relationship developed to the point we became “grandparents” for school events.  – Patricia Reaves, Kentucky

  • Don’t just share a meal. Cook together. Teach them a dish and let them teach you. – Melissa Treat, Mississippi

  • Offer rides. Many don’t drive yet. A Chinese woman and I had a baby around the same time. We scheduled our well-baby appointments together so I could drive her. That developed into me teaching English from a children’s Bible. – Emily Kuhnel, Texas

  • Invite them to your normal activities, like going to the store or for a walk in the park. – Olivia, North Carolina

Teach. Learn. Love.

Learning is a two way street. Let international friends teach about their culture while sharing about your own. Virginians Scott and Rebecca admitted this can take time and effort but it’s worth it in the end. Learning our way into their world provides a culturally appropriate way to share the gospel and disciple.
 
Tips:

  • Volunteer to teach English. Contact your state Baptist convention about ESL programs. It’s a great way to meet unreached people groups living in your community. – Kathy Wade, Oklahoma

  • Celebrate their holidays and your holidays together. This allows you to share on a deeper level. – Patricia Reaves, Kentucky

  • Teach things not covered in normal ESL like how to drive, going to the doctor, conducting official business, etc. The time you spend together builds a bond. – Scott and Rebecca, Virginia

God is moving people to your community so they may hear and know Him. Will you take up the cross? Remember, you aren’t alone. There are people willing to assist. All you have to do is join the conversation (ethnecity.com/connect).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Rain is an IMB senior writer living in Asia.)

10/23/2015 1:18:33 PM by Susie Rain, IMB Connections | with 0 comments



Aid shortfalls are driving desperate Syrians back home

October 23 2015 by Julia A. Seymour, World News Service

Desperate conditions and cuts to humanitarian aid helped drive many Middle Eastern refugees into Europe in recent months. But a new scarcity of aid is now prompting some Syrians to return to their war-torn country.
 
Even as thousands of refugees attempted to make their way to European nations, thousands more turned back to Syria from places like Jordan after United Nations (UN) agencies cut back on international aid.
 
Adnan, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, said he and his family of 12 fled Syria more than three years ago and settled in Jordan. They lived on food aid and income from selling vegetables, until the aid dried up two months ago. Four of his children have already gone to Europe. He wants to join them but can’t afford it now. So he signed up the rest of his family for a return to Syria.

 
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Ahmed Al Khara, another Syrian refugee at Zaatari, told Time he would return to family in Daraa, “regardless of the war and the barrel bombs.”
 
“Once in Syria I will think of a plan, because here there is no future,” he said.
 
BBC reported that some returning to Syria intended to remain there, while others claimed they would sell assets and hope eventually to get to Europe.
 
In June, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) announced a $3.47 billion shortfall between the funds received and the amount needed.
 
“[W]e are so dangerously low on funding that we risk not being able to meet even the most basic survival needs of millions of people over the coming six months,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said.
 
In September, WFP stopped supplying food vouchers to 229,000 refugees in Jordan alone, according to the BBC. Christian Science Monitor reported the program also cut in half stipends for 211,000 refugees. In 2015, WFP cut payments to 1.6 million Syrian refugees, according to The Guardian.
 
The cuts take a huge toll on the refugees because in certain host countries, Turkey included, they are not legally allowed to work and must rely on aid.
 
“They are unable to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table and send their children to school,” Cate Osborne of the Norwegian Refugee Council told the BBC. “They see the situation as increasingly desperate.”
 
CARE, a global poverty-fighting organization, also saw the desperate need. “We do have a lot of boots on the ground, we need more because the need is far outpacing the global response,” MIchelle Nunn, the group’s CEO, told WSBTV Atlanta after visiting refugee camps.
 
UN aid shortages aren’t just causing suffering among Syrians in Jordan. The Guardian reported the budget shortfall also meant aid cuts for Darfuris living in Chadian refugee camps and Somali and Sudanese refugees living in Kenya.
 
Other agencies also are coming up short. The World Health Organization closed 184 health clinics across Iraq because of a multi-million dollar shortfall, according to The Guardian. The cuts eliminated healthcare access for 3 million people.

10/23/2015 1:08:01 PM by Julia A. Seymour, World News Service | with 0 comments



First Responders Day ‘built bridges’ in community

October 23 2015 by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder

In light of recent tension between some communities and first responders, and “to build some relationships in the first responder community, and help the community as a whole get to know its first responders,” Shelbyville’s First Baptist Church recently hosted a “First Responders Weekend.”
 
“We wanted to say thank you for all they (first responders) do, but also to get to know them. We wanted to build bridges between the first responder community and the community as a whole,” Pastor Maurice Hollingsworth said.
 
“If you know people and appreciate them, it’s hard to get mad at them. So we wanted to offer that opportunity,” he added.
 
“Law enforcement especially is kind of under attack. It’s great to see the community rally, not just behind the law enforcement, but firefighters and EMS, and everybody that works together to keep this community safe,” Trooper Eddie Whitworth, of Kentucky State Police and member of First Baptist, said.
 
The idea for the weekend came from a similar event where Hollingsworth was pastor in New Mexico. Hollingsworth’s family has a long tradition of roasting an entire pig, which takes around 15 hours. They invited police officers to come eat and fellowship with them by the fire throughout the night as they roasted a pig. The results of that event were that many people came to know Christ, Hollingsworth said.
 
“Sometimes it’s a little bit hard for a cop to think a pastor can relate to his world, and that’s true,” observed Hollingsworth. “I don’t understand what he has to face, but somehow when we’re all sitting around the fire, in the middle of the night, taking care of a hog at 3 a.m., barriers are kind of broken down.”
 
One of Hollingsworth’s prayer partners, a retired Secret Service agent for Kentucky, saw the picture of the event in New Mexico and suggested they do the same thing – but for first responders.
 
The first event of the weekend was the hog roasting. Many first responders came and ate and played corn hole during their breaks throughout the night.
 
The next afternoon, a community fair was held in the church’s parking lot. First responders sent crews, fire trucks and EMT vans. The fire department even brought a car to demonstrate how the “Jaws of Life” work.
 
“We had a lot of people here on our parking lot, basically just getting to know these guys who take care of us and protect us all the time,” Hollingsworth said.
 
That evening, the church hosted a barbecue, where an attorney for the Commonwealth presented an award to one of the law enforcement agents.
 
On Sunday, the worship service saw more than 600 people in attendance. “We had a time of prayer for the first responders to ask God’s protection over them and blessing over their families and a prayer of gratitude for all that they do for us,” Hollingsworth said.
 
“It was a tremendously effective way to demonstrate to the community that we care about what happens not just on Sunday morning, but we care about them all week long,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Myriah Snyder is a reporter for the Western Recorder.)

10/23/2015 1:03:21 PM by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder | with 0 comments



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