September 2009

Shelter exempt from discrimination laws

September 15 2009 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Anti-discrimination statutes do not apply to an Idaho homeless shelter run by Christians because it is not a “dwelling,” a federal district judge has ruled.

Moreover, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the Boise Rescue Mission Ministries’ right to hold Christian services and encourage participants in its drug and alcohol recovery program to accept Christianity, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge ruled last Sept. 10.

The 51-year-old non-profit says it runs three shelters that serve more than 28,000 meals and offers 8,000 beds to homeless persons each month. Lodge ruled that the shelters are not dwellings under the Fair Housing Act, but rather places of “temporary sojourn or transient visit.”

At the same time, barring the Boise ministry from “teaching, preaching and proselytizing to individuals on its property, whether they be shelter guests, Discipleship program residents, or other individuals ... would substantially burden the Rescue Mission’s ability to freely exercise its religion,” Lodge wrote.

The Intermountain Fair Housing Council had sued Boise Rescue Mission Ministries on behalf of two individuals who said that guests who skip the shelters’ worship services received inferior treatment, and that only Christians are allowed in its drug and alcohol recovery program.

“Most homeless people are desperately low in spirit,” said Bill Roscoe, executive director of the Boise Rescue Mission Ministries, “so we offer voluntary spiritual guidance to guests who desire to learn about Christianity.”

Roscoe said the shelters do not discriminate on the basis of religion.

9/15/2009 8:30:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

World Changers gets new 2010 schedule

September 14 2009 by Jonathan Wilson, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) World Changers will mark 20 years of ministry in 2010. Since 1990, some 288,000 students and their adult leaders have participated in the missions initiative to repair and rehabilitate some of the poorer neighborhoods of America.

While 2010 will be a year to celebrate how God has used World Changers over the years, it also is a year when NAMB leadership will make improvements to position the program for the future.

World Changers is a pre-packaged mission experience managed by NAMB, enabling students to donate a week of their summer working in conjunction with cities, churches and community agencies to provide renovations at no charge to the low-income homeowners.

“We have made some decisions related to the schedule of the World Changers project week,” reported John W. Bailey, NAMB’s team leader for World Changers. “These changes are necessary to keep us in the position of being an effective partner with the SBC churches and entities we work with,” Bailey said. “We want to continue to be effective, while at the same time be more efficient.”

Photo by Kathleen Murray

Stephen Kaerwer, left, and Audra Wrisley, both of Richmond, Va., are two of some 288,000 students and adult leaders who have participated in the North American Mission Board’s World Changers missions initiative since its launch almost 20 years ago. NAMB has announced some changes in the program for 2010, including a new schedule and prayer emphasis. 

One of the major changes for 2010 is a city project schedule which will begin on Monday and end on Saturday, as opposed to the previous Saturday-to-Saturday format. While the new schedule does not include a night off or the host church’s Sunday services, Bailey said the change opens up new possibilities of ministry “to make sure that the local church connection is maintained.”

“One night of the project will be set aside for participants to interact with their host church,” Bailey said. “We will continue to partner with local churches in the project community to reach people for Christ. We are looking at some creative ways in which to do that.”

Some of the ideas under consideration for the community focus night are block parties, servant evangelism or other opportunities where World Changers participants could plug into local churches’ existing strategies.

Other than the new six-day schedule, Bailey said World Changers will continue to have the same look, feel and experience that participants have come to expect over the years. Construction will continue to be the main ministry tool at project sites, and nightly worship will remain one of the highlights for students and adults.

Bailey also noted that World Changers intends to nurture “a new level of calling students to prayer. We can’t wait to see what God will do as a result of thousands of students praying throughout the summer.”

World Changers renovated its 20,000th house in June in Savannah, Ga. Nearly 24,000 students and adults participated nationwide in the program during the summer, representing more than 1,200 Southern Baptist churches.

The World Changers theme for 2010 will be “Unhindered,” based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.

Registration for 2010 projects is now under way. World Changers is offering an incentive for groups to register and pay their initial deposits and first payments on time. For groups that meet those guidelines, there will be a $20 per person discount off the listed project price. Registration and other information can be obtained at or by calling (800) 462-8657 option 2.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Wilson is strategy development coordinator for the North American Mission Board’s student volunteer mobilization team.)

9/14/2009 4:34:00 AM by Jonathan Wilson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Volunteers see openness at Deaflympics

September 14 2009 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan — From deaf churches and interpretative ministries across the United States, they came to Taipei, Taiwan, with one common goal — to share the power of Jesus with every person they would meet.

BP photo

Kanoy High, at the age of 81 on his 13th mission trip, trade a “power pin” with a local deaf Taiwanese attending the 21st Deaflympic Games in Taipei. High is part of a volunteer mission team from the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf.

The volunteers to the 21st Deaflympics in Taipei, Taiwan, have dubbed themselves the “Power Team,” based on the official theme of this year’s games, “Power in Me.”

The team includes a 66-year-old former athlete at the 1961 Deaflympic Games; an 81-year-old North Carolina man; a married couple on their first mission trip to Asia; a young man interested in one day serving the deaf internationally; a deaf evangelist with the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf (SBCD); the chairman of the SBCD’s international mission committee; and a Kentucky church’s coordinator of deaf ministries. The games began with opening ceremonies on Sept. 5 and run through Sept. 15.

Brian Sims, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church in Brentwood, Tenn., coordinated the trip, which was co-sponsored by the SBCD. Sims, who is hearing, grew up in the deaf culture.

“The purpose of our trip is to show the deaf the power that is theirs in Jesus Christ,” Sims said. “Our volunteers have a real sense of urgency to share Christ in this setting, where the world has gathered.”

Dee Douglas, global deaf strategist for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, noted: “Seven hundred fifty deaf people die every day without Christ, and 68 percent of those are Asian. This is the first time that deaf volunteers have done a major mission outreach in this part of the world.

“From a worldview perspective, the biggest issues confronting deaf around the world are feelings of oppression and powerlessness,” Douglas said. “When we can show deaf people that they can have power through a relationship with Jesus Christ, they respond.”

Trading pins has long been a Deaflympic tradition, akin to the Olympics. The volunteer team is sharing its message by distributing what they call “power pins.” The small, rectangular pin has three deaf symbols set against a red background with three gold stars. Using the pins as a visual device, the volunteers are sharing how a life built on Jesus Christ can bring light and change.

The team did not know the theme of the Deaflympics when they were designing the pin, Sims marveled.

“Everything was pre-ordained,” he said. “When the team arrived in Taipei, we immediately made the connection between the Power in Me theme and our message. While the theme focuses on the idea that the power to succeed lies within us, our team is helping people to understand that real power only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

BP photo

“Power pins” are being distributed by a 10-member volunteer team at the Deaflympics in Taipei, Taiwan, to share the story of Jesus and the power He gives.

With an athlete’s build and a love of sports, Beth Driver, deaf ministries coordinator at First Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., has had many opportunities to share the “power presentation” in Taipei.

“I was very nervous at first,” Driver said. “I wanted to do it right, but the second day I felt more confident and I began to allow God to work through me.”

As she gained confidence, Driver was amazed how God was at work.

“As I shared with one Asian man at the arena, he told me he believed in many gods. When I explained to him that there is only one God, he was surprised. He had never heard that before.”

Driver did not limit herself only to sharing with deaf people, recounting, “A hearing couple approached me, and the woman asked about the pin. Although she was hearing, she could understand sign language. I didn’t know if the presentation would work with the hearing, but I shared it anyway.

“The woman voiced the presentation to her husband. When I explained about Jesus, the woman began pointing up, telling her husband about Jesus. This was the first time they had ever heard of Him.

“That was incredible,” Driver said. “Even at a deaf event, God can speak to the hearing. I realized we must be faithful to witness, whether the people are deaf or hearing.”

Kevin Clark, a deaf evangelist with the SBCD, often uses drama to share the story of Jesus. With a slight build and a burr haircut, the intensity in his eyes reveals his passion to reach the lost. His visual presentation of the difference between a life with Christ and a life without Him adds a compelling element not possible through oral delivery.

“Here in Taipei, I’ve met lots of Asians,” Clark, a North Carolinian, said. “They are very hungry, open and curious about what we have to say. There is an openness here I’ve never seen anywhere else.”

Because of this openness, Clark said he feels a strong responsibility to be clear in his presentation. “There is a lot of fear among Asians, and no one has told them how a relationship with Jesus is supposed to work. I tell them that without Christ, there is nothing to redeem them. With Christ, they can have eternal life.”

Clark encourages other deaf to consider a mission trip among the deaf in Asia, where vast masses are without God. “If we will come, they will pay attention to what we have to share,” he said.

For 81-year-old Kanoy High of Thomasville, N.C., the Deaflympics is his 13th missions trip, following travels to Russia, the Ukraine, Honduras, Ecuador and Thailand.

High is a tall man with an easy smile. People of all cultures are readily attracted to his warmth and friendliness. He became a Christian at the age of 54 when he attended the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf’s 1982 meeting in Waco, Texas.

BP photo

In Taipei, Taiwan, Timothy Reed of the volunteer team from the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf quickly makes friends with French Deaflympic volunteer Fanny Limousin before the games’ opening ceremony.

“It was at the SBCD meeting that I first learned about Christ,” High said, “and gave my life to Him.”

Several years later, High, then 67 or 68, felt God’s call to go on a volunteer mission trip to Russia.

“To be honest, I was very scared. It was my first experience, but I learned on that trip that God was with me. So now, that fear is gone,” High said.

“I believe it is important for deaf Christians to reach out to the deaf around the world,” he said. “There are so many deaf around the world who don’t know about Jesus.

“People are at the Deaflympics from many different countries,” High continued. “Some of their signs we know, and I am learning others. I want to share Jesus with them in their language.”

High encourages other deaf Christians to go on a volunteer mission trip, and he is thankful to God that he can continue to serve.

“It doesn’t matter how old I am,” High said, “I’m going to keep going. It doesn’t matter where we are going to; I’m going to keep going. Until the Lord takes me home, I’m going to go.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rivers is a writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. To follow the “Power Team” throughout the Deaflympics, visit their blog at A YouTube video of one of the volunteers in Taiwan explaining the “power pin” can be accessed at

9/14/2009 4:29:00 AM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Former Deaflympian returns to the games

September 14 2009 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Ruth Bruffey first came to the Deaflympics games in 1961 as a track and field athlete with the U.S. Deaflympic Team. This year, Bruffey returned to the Deaflympics to tell others about Jesus.

In 1961, at the 9th Deaflympic games in Helsinki, Finland, 24 nations and 595 athletes competed. This year, at the 21st Deaflympic games in Taipei, Taiwan, more than 4,200 athletes and officials from 85 countries are competing in 177 events in 17 sports. The games, which occur every four years, began with opening ceremonies on Sept. 5 and are slated to run through Sept. 15.

In 1961, Bruffey, who is deaf, competed in what is now the 100-meter low hurdles and the 12-pound shot put. This year, Bruffey is with a team of deaf volunteers from churches across the United States to share God’s love with Deaflympic competitors and spectators.

BP photo

Ruth Bruffey, former Deaflympian, takes a moment to look at her 1961 Deaflympic patch while visiting an exhibit at the current games in Taipei, Taiwan.

Brian Sims, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church (BBDC) in Tennessee, organized the trip which is co-sponsored by the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf (SBCD). The team of 10 volunteers personally paid the cost of their airfare and housing, with the SBCD providing the team’s local transportation and food.

Bob Barker, chairman of the SBCD’s international missions committee, said the group has been involved in ministry at the Deaflympics since 1985.

“The Deaflympics is a priority for deaf Southern Baptists,” Barker noted, “but this is the first time that we have brought a team to Asia. It presents new challenges and new approaches. It has been a very good experience for us and has broadened our awareness and our skills for reaching the deaf world.”

Bruffey first learned about the trip at the SBCD annual meeting in July 2008.

“I wanted to go when I first heard about the trip, but I had no money,” Bruffey recounted. “Then, I heard that the trip was off. When I learned a few months ago it was back on again, I just felt compelled to go, regardless of the little money I had in my bank account.”

So, Bruffey ventured to Taiwan with the team and has shared the Gospel numerous times using special “power” pins designed to tell the story of Jesus.

“In deaf culture, all information is shared through a story,” said Dee Douglas, global deaf strategist for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. “Our story will be told through the exchange of pins.”

Trading pins is a Deaflympic tradition, akin to the Olympics. Athletes and spectators bring pins from their countries to trade with one another. Bruffey and her fellow volunteers, who have dubbed themselves the “Power Team” based on the Deaflympic theme, “Power in Me,” have brought their own pins to trade. The cost of producing the 10,000 pins was funded by the SBCD.

Although the small rectangular pin is only a few millimeters high and even fewer wide, it contains a series of three deaf symbols set against a red background with three gold stars.

“The first symbol represents that Jesus is the Rock,” Douglas explained. “The second is an invitation to build your life on the Rock. The third shows that only Jesus has the power to bring light and change.”

Some on the team also have been trained to share 20 Bible stories, as time and opportunity allow, based on the symbols on the pin and on such themes as who Jesus is, the church as the body of Christ and the task of reaching the lost.

For Bruffey, it is thrilling to share with those she meets at the games. “For me, this is like a reunion. I feel like I belong here. I know what they went through to get to this point.”

In 1961, Bruffey was entering her senior year in high school at the Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson. She was active in sports, including basketball, track and volleyball — and she could even kick field goals for the football team.

“But,” she said, “track wasn’t me. I didn’t enjoy it, and as a junior in high school, the coach found out I was planning to quit the team. The coach told me if I quit track, then I would also have to quit basketball. I loved basketball, so I stayed on the track team.”

Bruffey, now 66, thanks God for the coach’s direction because a track and field event was what brought her to the Deaflympics just a few months later in August 1961.

Originally, Bruffey was slated to compete only in the 100-meter low hurdles, but when the team stopped in Duisburg, Germany, en route to Helsinki, a member of the shot put team suffered a hamstring injury. The coaches asked Bruffey to take her place.

“But look at my weight!” Bruffey, at a mere 112 pounds, exclaimed.

“Just do the best you can,” her coaches said.

While Bruffey did not win any medals, the memories stay with her, and at the 2009 Deaflympics she has enjoyed a type of celebrity status. She has connected with two former Deaflympians — a German man and a Slovakian man. The Slovakian competed in the 1965 and 1969 games on the swimming and biking teams.

“I also met a group of U.S. citizens who were in awe that I was a former Deaflympian,” Bruffey smiled.

While this is not Bruffey’s first volunteer mission trip — she has made eight trips to work with the deaf in Portugal since 2003 — mission trips have not always been one of her priorities. Instead, she focused on her family, leaving mission work to her husband, Clifford, who passed away in 2001.

Clifford Bruffey served as the Baptist chaplain at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., for many years with the North American Mission Board. Clifford, who also was deaf, is referred to by many as the Billy Graham for the deaf. He constantly encouraged his students to consider mission service. Meanwhile, Ruth stayed home to raise their three children, all of whom are now involved in full-time ministry.

But after her husband’s death in 2001, God began to work in Bruffey’s heart, calling her to more active involvement in missions.

“My husband was always so engaged in missions, always out and going,” Bruffey said. “After he died, I wrote a song called ‘Time to Go.’ As I was writing that song, I thought, ‘What prohibits me?’ The song was about being in the Word, being ready and going when God calls. Every time I sang that song, I thought about going.”

Then came an opportunity to minister in Portugal in 2003, and Bruffey felt it was her time to go.

“Portugal changed my life,” she said. “I began to see a broader world, and I’ve continued to go to Portugal year after year. I have a strong commitment to seeing the work there come to fruition.”

Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church, where Ruth is a member, has a strong commitment to planting deaf churches internationally, having started one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and now focusing on Portugal, with plans to begin a new work in Argentina this fall.

Ruth smiled as she talked about what her husband’s reaction might be to her current involvement in missions.

“I’m sure he’s rejoicing, knowing that I am going and sharing the Gospel,” Ruth said. Then she grinned and said, “and he’s probably just a little surprised.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rivers is a writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.)

9/14/2009 4:27:00 AM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Thou shalt not buy cars on Sundays

September 14 2009 by Julia Bauer, Religion News Service

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When locals leave church on Sunday mornings, some will head for Sunday brunch at their favorite restaurant. Others will eat at home, stop by the pharmacy or even hit the mall.

But one thing they won’t do is buy a car.

A 56-year-old Michigan blue law forbids Sunday car sales in counties with more than 130,000 people; it’s one of 13 states that prohibit auto sales on Sundays.

The legislation passed when the Chevy Bel-Air, the Nash Rambler Country Club sedan and the Ford Crestline Victoria all rolled through town. If the law sounds as rusty as that  Rambler would be today, its wording won’t dissuade you:

“It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to engage in the business of buying, selling, trading or exchanging new, used or second-hand motor vehicles or offering to buy, sell, trade or exchange, or participate in the negotiation thereof, or attempt to buy, sell, trade or exchange any motor vehicle or interest therein, or of any written instrument pertaining thereto, on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday.”

Fast forward to 2009.

Does it make sense now, amid an automotive depression, to darken dealerships on a day when most potential buyers are free? And should dealers be forced by law to stay closed when sales are so badly needed?

“Growing up here, from the religious side, it’s tough,” said Dan DeVos, who owns DP Fox and its 17 dealerships around the state. “When I was young, nothing was open. But lifestyles and things have changed so much since then.

“It would be logical, for so many reasons, for the law to be lifted.”

Although the Cash for Clunkers program bumped up new car sales in recent weeks, the auto industry is still setting its sights low for 2009. Car sales are on pace to require just 9.5 million vehicles this year; that’s 40 percent below the 16 million built just a few years ago.

New car dealers are also becoming fewer and farther between. In their quick-rinse bankruptcies this spring, both Chrysler and GM cast off dealerships and brands.

More than 700 new car dealers in the state are represented by Michigan’s Automobile Dealers Association (MADA), a trade group that supports the never-on-Sunday blue law.

“Some dealers have tried this and it didn’t work,” said Terry Burns, executive vice president of MADA. “It’s difficult to staff a seven-day operation.”

The 1953 law only affects the state’s larger counties, but for 400 dealers in smaller Michigan counties, the Sunday option still holds little allure, he said.

“It’s a combination of morale, employee structure, ability to develop relationships with customers. It’s also the inability to finance the deal,” Burns said.

Many dealers say they like the never-on-Sunday schedule, but the controversy unlocks plenty of opinion:
  • Pro: Dealers are people, too, and they like to have a weekend day with their families.
  • Con: On most fronts, Sunday has become less sacred (think soccer practice, the NFL season, buying beer). Many businesses say the Christian Sabbath is actually their busiest.
  • Pro: Auto insurance offices and banks are closed, so deals can’t be finalized.
  • Con: People can already shop for cars online 24/7. Auto insurance and loan providers will surely adjust if the Sunday market merits it.
  • Pro: With sales down, dealerships already struggle to make ends meet: staying open another day will boost costs.
  • Con: Dealerships could close on a traditionally slow weekday and sell cars on Sunday,  when the most people have the most free time.
Michigan is one of a baker’s dozen nationwide to bar Sunday car sales. Others are Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In Ann Arbor, auto analyst David Cole said he was neutral on the Sunday opening issue.

“Ultimately, the market’s going to rule on this kind of thing,” Cole said.

DeVos said there aren’t any quick fixes.

“Everybody would like to work 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, but that’s just not the way it works, generally speaking,” DeVos said. “It would be difficult from an operational viewpoint, but from a free market side? The free market is going to find a way to deal.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bauer writes for The Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids,

9/14/2009 4:25:00 AM by Julia Bauer, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Managing editor Steve DeVane resigns

September 11 2009 by BR Staff

Steve DeVane, managing editor of the Biblical Recorder since January 1997, has resigned to pursue other interests.

DeVane, who collaborated with Eddie Hammett and Randy Pierce on the book Making Shifts without Making Waves to be released in October, is a journalist of long standing, certified personal coach and active churchman. He is a graduate of Campbell University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Steve’s experience, wit, diligence and insight have been an asset to the Recorder and for North Carolina Baptists for almost 13 years,” said Norman Jameson, Biblical Recorder editor. “Steve served faithfully, speaking his mind in private and presenting the facts for the public”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Steve DeVane

DeVane, hired at the Recorder by editor Gene Puckett, served also with Puckett’s successor Tony Cartledge before Cartledge retired to teach at Campbell University.

DeVane reported for several eastern North Carolina newspapers before joining the Recorder, most recently for the Fayetteville Observer. He started his Baptist reporting career during an era of denominational turmoil.

“When I came to the Biblical Recorder I had been covering the military for the Fayetteville Observer,” DeVane said. “Some of my colleagues jokingly told me then that it wouldn’t be much different since Baptists were always fighting. While there have been plenty of controversies, there have also been many joyful events and I did my best to help the Recorder report on both with integrity and insight.

“I am blessed and honored to have had the opportunity to be the Recorder’s managing editor. During my tenure I always sought to live up to the Baptist journalist’s adage to “tell the truth and trust the people.”

DeVane, who kept living in the Dunn area throughout his time at the Recorder, had nearly a one-hour commute each way. He figures he spent more than seven months behind the wheel, driving to and from work. While he didn’t always enjoy the drive, he said, “I almost always enjoyed the work.”

“I continue to hold the Recorder staff in high regard and pray that God will continue to bless them and their ministry,” DeVane said. “I pray the Recorder will continue to uphold the high ideals of a free press for Baptists in North Carolina and around the world.”

In addition to helping promote the new book Making Shifts Without Making Waves, DeVane will concentrate on his coaching practice, a nutrition and wellness business and other writing interests.

“Steve will be an asset wherever he applies himself in the future,” said Jameson.

9/11/2009 7:31:00 AM by BR Staff | with 7 comments

Leader: Multicultural ministry = sharing the gospel

September 11 2009 by BSC Communications

WINSTON-SALEM — So much time has been invested in fighting for the existence of church and proving the need for church that the question of what the church should actually look like has been largely ignored.

“The goal in the multicultural church is not to make immigrants more like us,” said Larry Phillips, Hispanic coaching consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and former International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, “but rather to share the gospel in a context which they can understand it.”

The BSC recently hosted the Kingdom-Focused Perspective conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem to discuss developing multicultural churches in North Carolina.

Phillips does not think it makes much sense to send an International Mission Board missionary to evangelize a people group in a foreign country only to have believers in North Carolina ignore immigrants from that same people group who live in the state.

Consider that in 2008, 7.4 percent of the population in North Carolina was Hispanic, 21 percent African-American. Every week 3,000 Muslims attend services at a mosque in the Raleigh area and 5,000 Asian Indians attend services at two Hindu temples in the Charlotte area. About 180 language groups are represented in this state.

BSC photo

Kingdom-Focused Perspective participants bow their heads at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

Rodney Woo, a keynote speaker at the Aug. 14-15 event, talked about the challenges of creating a kingdom-focused impact from a biblical perspective. The conference was all about helping church leaders be intentional in multicultural ministry; which, as Woo and every conference speaker emphasized, is indeed a biblical mandate.

Woo pastors the multicultural congregation of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. He showed conference participants how the Bible points to a church that looks like heaven, something like “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne” (Rev 7:9-11). “We should aim for heaven here on earth,” Woo said.

Woo still has a hard time getting over the fact that evangelical churches in America are more segregated than mainline denominations. “Too many of us are going to have culture shock in heaven,” he said.

Woo, who is half Anglo-American and half Chinese, grew up in a predominately black neighborhood with black friends and attended a predominately black school. He married Sasha, a Latino. With a laugh he told attendees he calls his kids confused — but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Growing up Woo spent every day, except Sunday when his family attended an all white church, with his black friends. Once Woo felt God calling him into ministry he determined he would not fall into the same pattern of segregation he experienced as a child.

Today, 43 different countries are represented in the Wilcrest congregation. The church really began to grow when the congregation dropped below 50 percent Anglo-American and a majority ethnic group no longer existed. The church has been featured on PBS, CNN and the Dallas Morning News.

Most churches in America look nothing like Wilcrest.

In fact, church leaders have probably heard it said that Sunday at 11 a.m. is the most segregated hour in American culture. Churches do not need to, and they cannot, model exactly the Wilcrest multicultural outreach because not every community is as diverse. The question is not how to model a church after another church, but rather, does the membership of a church represent the local community in which God has placed it? Are people from every skin color, tribe, culture and language within a certain community represented in the church’s attendance and membership?

John Houze of Peoples Baptist Church in Kings Mountain asked participants to think of the body and bride of Christ as being divided and incomplete when not diverse.

People get a mixed message when they hear the church quote the Great Commission and say the gospel is for all people, only to turn around and then segregate the bride of Christ. The light of the church shines brightest and has its greatest evangelistic and missionary element when it is multi-ethnic. Houze said churches going by the “birds of a feather flock together” model have no biblical precedent and actually encourage segregation, deny the power of the gospel and cultivate a consumer Christianity.

9/11/2009 7:29:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Annual event celebrates diversity

September 11 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Stephen Martin had heard that the world was at his doorstep.

But he had no idea how right that statement was until his church hosted the 13th Annual Cultural Diversity Day Aug. 9 which brought about 250 people from various ethnic backgrounds together for a meal and service.

Contributed photo

Ten various language groups led worship during the Annual Cultural Diversity Day on Aug. 9 in Pilot Mountain Baptist Association.

“Maybe this is what Pentecost is all about,” Martin said he shared with a member of his congregation at First Baptist Church in Kernersville where he is senior pastor. “We’re rookies at this. It’s one of those things you kind of learn as you go along.”

Why rookies? Because the church started working to plant a Hispanic congregation only two years ago.

The work, Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Vision, along with the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association Woman’s Missionary Union, helped plan and host the event.

Many years have been spent “fostering relationships between groups,” said Evelyn York Benfield, multicultural consultant for the associational WMU.

“I think it makes us realize we have more sameness … we have more likenesses than differences,” she said.

It also answers specific needs and prayers within the faith community. One of the pastors mentioned a need for help with a medical clinic. A nurse in the audience responded to that need.

“We are always thinking about the call to go to the world,” said Martin. “In that one moment we were enlightened that the world is coming to us. Everybody loved it.”

Martin called it a “unique experience” from a worship standpoint and a “truly memorable” event from an ecumenical viewpoint.

Expanding ministry
Starting in November, the associational ethnic pastors and their wives will be invited to a lunch at the Winston-Salem Korean congregation’s new facility.

“This work has been long and hard,” said Benfield, but she has been inspired by the steadfastness of the people.

The Korean congregation has been around about two decades but just built a building last year. They were eager to get involved, said Benfield.

9/11/2009 7:27:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Chicago: Gateway to the ends of the earth

September 11 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

GLEN ELLYN, Ill. — Cody Lorance doesn’t knock. He just pushes the door open and ambles into the apartment. A little girl runs to hug him and the rest of her family filters into the room to greet their guest.

They give each other a traditional South Asian greeting — the palms of their hands pressed together in front of them — but what they say in Nepali is anything but traditional: “Jay Masih,” which means “Victory to the Messiah.”

BP photo

Women from TriEak Parmeshwar Mandali, a Nepali congregation that meets at Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn, Ill., prepare ingredients for “Momo,” a meat dumpling native to the Himalayas of Nepal, for a fellowship meal preceding the baptism of several new Nepali believers.

Lorance is a church planter in Chicago. Since 2005, he and a five-member team have been working among immigrants in the city. Since they started meeting as a house church four years ago, they have seen the Lord pull together congregations among Nepali, Ethiopian and Karen people who live in rundown little apartment buildings scattered around Chicago’s western suburbs.

Lorance makes himself at home, dropping casually onto the couch and peppering family members with questions in their heart language. He asks how jobs are going, talks about plans for a block party, and learns a family member has bought a car that may not have had all the appropriate paperwork to go with it. A young woman brings him a steaming glass of tea that gives off an aroma of cardamom, and Lorance sips it appreciatively. He will sit and chat with the family for hours.

He may be a pastor making a ministry visit, but he’s also part of the family.

Back on the street outside, Lorance gestures at the nearby businesses and homes.

“This is a white, upper-middle-class neighborhood, but these little apartment buildings are chock-full of refugees,” he points out. “So many church people pass by every day and have no idea what’s going on here.”

The refugees come from all over the world, and some churches are reaching out to them in ministry. Most of the visitors, however, don’t spend the time necessary to develop a real relationship with the refugees.

“This is not a superficial, drive-by ministry. You’ve got to be willing to move beyond the American 30-minute visit,” Lorance said. “You’ve got to get past the first cup of tea and eat a couple of meals with them. It takes three-hour, six-hour visits. You have to get to the point where you run out of the Nepali phrases you know and they run out of English — and you still stay with them. You become more a part of their lives — a fixture, a part of the family.”

‘Gateway to the ends of the earth’
“Chicagoland” is a gateway to the ends of the earth, Lorance said. Its 9.6 million residents speak a couple of hundred languages — 147 officially documented by the public schools — and many of those are the heart languages of overseas people groups that have never heard the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ.

The work Lorance and his team are doing is helping forge a new path for North American missions — a path that leads directly into unreached people groups overseas, said Keith Draper, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Baptist Association.

“When the International Mission Board tells us the first church among an unreached people of the world could begin in Chicago, we are overjoyed and looking for partners,” Draper said. “Cody is doing that kind of groundbreaking work.”

What began as a house church in 2005 was followed by an Ethiopian congregation in 2006 and an English As A Second Language ministry and Karen congregation in 2007. The Ethiopian group spun off a daughter church back in Ethiopia and the Karen from a daughter church in Rockford, Ill.

The Nepali congregation began meeting earlier in 2009. They have baptized 18 so far this year, including 12 reflecting rare instances of high-caste Hindus publicly declaring their faith in Jesus alone as Savior.

Unexpected open doors
Lorance sees the Lord opening doors with refugees in the most unexpected ways.

BP photo

The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple in the Chicago suburb of Bartlett, Ill., signifies the dedication to Hinduism felt by more than 50,000 Chicago-area Hindus.

He was working in partnership with Exodus World Service, a refugee ministry based in Bloomingdale, Ill., to help refugees from Burma’s Karen people group. The first family he met had been commissioned by their refugee-camp church to start a church in the United States when they arrived.

“We have prayed a lot and ... started a home Bible study two years ago and have gone from house to house as others arrived,” Lorance recounted. “We had the first worship service here in December 2007 and a few months later helped start a church among Karen refugees in Rockford that had 300 in attendance for their first anniversary service.”

One Wednesday evening, Lorance walked into a Karen home to lead a Bible study and found four people waiting who were definitely not Karen. Two Karen teenage girls had met some new neighbors and invited them to the Bible study. The neighbors, who were Nepalis from Bhutan, came even though they wouldn’t understand what was being said.

Lorance, however, had focused on Hinduism during his graduate studies and was working at the time with the South Asia Friendship Center in Chicago’s Little India. He was able to greet the visitors in Hindi.

“I had been preaching to the Karen church about missions. They have neighbors from all over the world and I had been locating people for them on a map,” Lorance said. “The two girls invited their new neighbors and from that simple act of reaching out we now have a congregation of 70 Nepalis, many of them new believers. It started with a simple invitation.”

That Nepali congregation is the only organization in the city for Bhutanese Nepalis, Lorance added. When a new family arrives at the airport, the Nepali congregation picks them up and takes them to a home where they enjoy a Nepali meal. They help them get moved into an apartment, work with them on getting the necessities of life in America, and the next Sunday members of that new family usually are in the congregation’s service.

“It’s amazing,” Lorance said. “Eighty percent of the Bhutanese Nepalis in our county are in church with us on Sunday, even if they are Hindu.”

In a city the size of Chicago, with its millions of lost souls, the opportunities are boundless to see God replicate the kind of kingdom advance Lorance and his team are experiencing, said Charles Campbell, who directs church planting initiatives for the Illinois Baptist State Association.

“We need more Codys to come to Chicago,” Campbell said. “My prayer is that as people see what he is doing, they will catch a vision for coming to Chicago and joining Illinois Baptists in the work there.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. You can learn more about the mission of the Chicago Metropolitan Baptist Association at their web site,
9/11/2009 7:21:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Poll finds more positive views of U.S. Muslims

September 11 2009 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — As the nation marks the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, almost six in 10 Americans believe Muslims are the subject of discrimination — more than other major religious groups — a new survey shows.

According to a study released Sept. 9 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 58 percent of U.S. adults think Muslims face “a lot” of discrimination. Only gays and lesbians were named by a higher percentage of respondents (64 percent) as victims of discrimination.

Certain sectors of society, including young adults (ages 18-29) and liberal Democrats, were especially likely to believe that Muslims face a lot of discrimination.

In addition to views on discrimination of Muslims, the survey showed a recent change in how much Americans connect Islam and violence. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said Islam is no more likely than other faiths to encourage violence; 38 percent said it is.

That’s a small shift from two years ago, when 45 percent thought Islam encouraged
violence more than other faiths.

Compared to two years ago, smaller percentages of almost every group surveyed said Islam encouraged violence, including a 13-point drop, to 55 percent, among conservative Republicans. The change was less dramatic among white evangelical Protestants, with 53 percent now saying Islam encourages violence, a drop of just 4 percentage points from 2007.

The results of the Pew Forum survey, conducted with the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, are the first to be released from the annual Religion and Public Life Survey. Based on phone interviews with 2,010 adults, it has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Researchers also found that more Americans have a basic knowledge of Islam. Slightly more than half of those surveyed know that Allah is the name Muslims use for God, or that the Quran is the Islamic holy book. Forty-one percent can identify both as aspects of Islam, up from 33 percent in 2002.

In general, Americans who had some familiarity with Islam or knew someone who is Muslim were more likely to have positive views of the faith.

Zahid Bukhari, director of the Muslim Studies Program at Georgetown University, said public perception of Muslims has changed as Muslims have become more visible, both in society at large and as neighbors next door.

“They are doing more social service activity,” said Bukhari, whose program is part of the university’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. “They are doing more interfaith activity. They are inviting more of their neighbors to their mosque.”

As Muslims become more visible in everyday American life, and in media that portray them positively, popular perception changes, too, he said. He compared the trend to people who may have low views of Congress but high praise for their own representative.

“If they know any Muslim personally ... their opinion will be, relatively, much better,” he said.

9/11/2009 7:19:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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