September 2010

Love for Mixtec people leads to surprise encounter

January 11 2019 by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist

Lisa Rose said she wishes she had snapped a photo of Terry Long’s face when he realized what had happened that day.
“The look on his face was just incredible,” she said.

Submitted photo
Choctaw Baptist Association director Terry Long, left, was surprised to find out "Shorty," a man he'd won to faith, was from an unreached people group.

The day had seemed pretty typical, she remembered. She and John Halbrook – both of whom serve in ministry to the Mixtec people of Montgomery, Ala. – had traveled more than two hours west to Butler to lead a workshop for Choctaw Baptist Association to educate them about the Mixtec people group.

‘Real love’

“Choctaw Baptists have had a partnership with us for several years and have been doing some construction on the Mixtec church in Montgomery,” said Rose, compassion ministries director for Montgomery Baptist Association.
Long, associational missions director for Choctaw Baptist Association, has a “real love for the Mixtec,” Rose said.
The Mixtec – one of Mexico’s indigenous people groups – has its own language, Mixteco. Roughly 726,000 Mixtec people live in Mexico, with another 100,000 or so living in the United States, most of them in California.
They were among the most unengaged unreached people group in the Americas a decade ago, but thanks to the work of Montgomery Baptists and others, there’s active evangelism happening among them now. They’re seeing churches planted here and there in the United States.
But if there were any Mixtec people in west Alabama, Long hadn’t found them yet.
That day after the workshop as they all went to Long’s favorite Mexican restaurant, he had someone he wanted them to meet – the owner, who went by Shorty.
Long had recently led him to Christ. He had spent months praying for Shorty before he ever invited him to sit down with him as he drew out the “three circles” gospel presentation on three tortillas – a circle representing God’s love, a circle representing our sin and brokenness and a circle representing salvation in Jesus.
“He had a wonderful salvation experience, and he’s excited about it and going to church,” Long said.
And in the months since Shorty decided to follow Christ, Long has been continuing to eat Mexican food there and talk to him about his faith.
“So I wanted to introduce him to Lisa and John, and when they told him they were involved in Mixtec ministry over in Montgomery, he got excited and said, ‘I’m Mixtec!’ Here we had just had a two-hour meeting about Mixtec ministry, and I had no idea that the one man from Mexico that I had led to the Lord was Mixtec,” Long said.
That revelation opened up a flood of conversation, and Rose came up with some ideas for how they could connect Shorty to the Mixtec ministry in Montgomery.

‘God’s up to something’

“It was just one of those God things,” Rose said. “Terry’s face was incredible when he realized that he had led a Mixtec man to the Lord without knowing it.”
Both of them agree – God’s up to something there.
“That’s too unusual to be a coincidence,” Long said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist,, news journal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

1/11/2019 11:03:40 AM by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

Evangelist Rick Stanley, stepbrother to Elvis, dies

January 11 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Rick Stanley, a stepbrother to Elvis Presley who turned to Christ two months after Presley’s death in 1977 and, as an evangelist, spoke at Billy Graham-sponsored events and in a multitude of other settings, died Saturday evening, Jan. 5, in Aiken, S.C.

Stanley returned to First Baptist Church in Eureka, S.C., five years ago – where he first gave his testimony in early 1978 and was serving as associate pastor and minister of music at the time of his death at age 65.
John Arthur, pastor of First Baptist since 1963, said Stanley died of liver and kidney failure in Aiken Regional Medical Center’s ICU.
His two daughters, Brittany and Bethany, were at his bedside, Arthur said. They had called Stanley’s two brothers, David and Billy, to say a final goodbye, and Arthur left the room so that the daughters could be alone with their father.
Stanley was mostly unconscious after Arthur took him to the hospital when he fell ill on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
Stanley had moved to Eureka after “getting off the road,” as Arthur put it, from an evangelistic ministry that took him to crusades, church meetings, youth camps and school assemblies over the years, often with fellow evangelists. He also came to the rural community divorced from his wife Robyn.
In Eureka, Stanley rented a single-wide trailer 300 yards from Arthur’s house.
“He was with me every step of the way,” Arthur, 75, said of his five years with Stanley. “We were sort of a team, a great team ... seven days a week.”
Stanley’s car was in disrepair so he traveled with the pastor wherever they went, visiting in homes among the several hundred people in the Eureka area and in hospitals and local establishments.
“A lot of people wanted to meet Rick,” said Arthur, noting that Stanley had been interviewed on such TV shows as “Good Morning America” and “Larry King Live.” Stanley also had authored an autobiographical book, The Touch of Two Kings.
At church on Sunday mornings, Stanley taught Sunday School and led the music and took prayer requests in the worship service attended by 30-35 people. Arthur preached three Sundays of the month and Stanley one Sunday.
“I knew Rick Stanley to be a most dedicated and devout Christian,” Arthur said. “He loved people. He loved the Lord. And he loved the church.” Arthur spoke of Stanley saying that he returned to Eureka to learn the ministry from a seasoned pastor and wanted to serve at First Baptist the rest of his life.
Arthur can’t recall how he learned of Stanley’s conversion in 1977 and contacted him to give his testimony at Eureka, but they stayed in contact over the years.

Journey of faith

Stanley attended Criswell College in Dallas before earning an associate of divinity degree in 1986 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
He was one of several speakers in Las Vegas at the 1989 meeting of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists in conjunction with that summer’s SBC annual meeting and he addressed the 1994 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Orlando, Fla.
He spoke in meetings led by such evangelists as James Robison, Rick Gage and Gage’s father, the late Freddie Gage.
Stanley addressed two chapel services at Southwestern in October 2000, recounting how he, at age 5 or 6 (accounts vary), and his two brothers became stepbrothers to Elvis Presley in 1960 when their mother, Dee, divorced her husband and married Elvis Presley’s father, Vernon.
The three brothers relished the attention they received from Elvis, including an array of gifts, from toys to bicycles and playground equipment, Stanley said in a 1989 People magazine interview. At age 16 or 17 (accounts also vary), Stanley became a personal aide to Elvis and, as he described it, eventually became one of those who gave the singer prescription drugs before his concerts and before he went to sleep at night.
Stanley also veered into drug use and, according to a 2010 Associated Press feature, was bailed out of jail by Elvis in 1975 for a forged prescription and subsequently entered rehab. At the time of his death, Stanley was not afflicted with any addiction, Arthur stated to Baptist Press.
As a teen, Stanley had begun a friendship with a Christian girl named Robyn through a social event. They often went to church together and stayed in touch as he was out on the road with the Presley entourage.
“Every time I would talk to her, she would end the call the same way, ‘Rick, I am praying for you,’” Stanley said in chapel at Southwestern. “It was like dial-a-prayer or something.”
On the day before Presley died, Stanley told him what Robyn was saying about Jesus and how she was praying for him.
“Elvis Presley, at 42 years old, looked at me and said, ‘Ricky, she’s telling you the truth.’ Then he said, ‘People who talk to you about Jesus really care.’”
Stanley, who had to leave Graceland upon Elvis’ death, and Robyn were together the night he surrendered his life to Christ at a storefront church in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where Robyn’s family had moved.
“I am not a recovering or former anything,” he said at Southwestern. “I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.”
Before becoming a Christian, he had “the theology without the testimony” and “didn’t know God loved me,” Stanley said. “My impression of Christianity, I had always believed it, but I thought you had to stop something then come to know Christ. It doesn’t work that way.
“We need a reformation in salvation theology because we got an awful lot of people out there in the world today ... they want to come to know Christ, but we look at them and say, ‘You need to stop that stuff and come to know Christ.’
“No, you come to know Christ” and then by Christ’s empowering, “you stop that stuff.”
A memorial service for Stanley is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at First Baptist in Eureka, with Arthur and Rick Gage presiding.

1/11/2019 11:03:30 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sexual purity movement undaunted by new critics

January 11 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid new claims sexual abstinence pledges harm teen girls, an early leader in the evangelical purity movement says he does not “second-guess the rightness of the original message.”

BP file photo
In July 1994, more than 210,000 teenagers displayed their True Love Waits commitment cards on the National Mall in Washington.

“Inviting teenagers into a lifetime of sexual holiness and purity, if consistent with scripture, is a beautiful thing,” Richard Ross, cofounder of the True Love Waits (TLW) sexual purity movement, wrote in a December blog post. “ ... I do not feel guilty, nor do I second-guess the rightness of the original message.”
TLW launched in 1993, and since then has spread to at least 100 denominations and student organizations in 100 countries worldwide, with an estimated 3 million students making TLW pledges. Each February, the Southern Baptist Convention observes a “True Love Waits Emphasis” on its denominational calendar.
LifeWay Christian Resources continues to offer TLW resources for each new generation.
Yet the latest critics in a 25-year stream of TLW naysayers claim abstinence emphases by evangelical churches wrongly shame girls and cause them to view their bodies as threats.
Linda Kay Klein, author of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, said she and other women who took purity pledges as evangelical teens experienced “fear and shame and anxiety” regarding their sexuality. “Sexual thoughts,” “feelings” and “choices,” Klein told NPR, have driven women in the evangelical subculture to nightmares, panic attacks and other physical symptoms that “mimicked classic PTSD [Post-traumatic stress disorder].”
The purity movement, Klein said, “was all about how [a woman] needed to be a good Christian by protecting [men] from the threat that is you – the threat that is your body” by wearing modest clothing and keeping mind and body free of sex until marriage.
Another critic, progressive pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, has asked women to send her their purity rings – which symbolize a commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage – so she can melt them down, The Huffington Post reported. In exchange for her purity ring, each woman will receive a silicone “impurity” ring and a “certificate of impurity.”
Bolz-Weber’s forthcoming book Shameless claims evangelical teaching on sexual purity has shamed women, and women must reclaim their bodies.
Ross wrote on Southwestern Seminary’s Theological Matters blog that he is obligated to consider such criticism and ask whether “this movement harmed rather than blessed a young generation.”
Ross concluded, “I grieve that distorted messages have harmed some teenagers. And I doubly grieve when I learn that some have carried pain into their adult years. But that grief does not cause me to doubt the beauty and rightness of the original True Love Waits (TLW) message.”
Seth Buckley, a South Carolina youth pastor who has used TLW since its inception, agreed. He said teaching sexual purity the right way protects teens from harm and does not load them “with guilt if they make mistakes.”
True Love Waits “should never wane because our students are being bombarded with images and music and things on the internet,” Buckley, minister to students at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., told Baptist Press. “... In many ways, it feels like we have an uphill battle. But we must continue to raise the standard of cherishing one another” and teach youth not to “sell out for sexual pleasure.”
Still, Buckley said critics of TLW over the years have helped refine his presentation of biblical truth. Now, for instance, he tells young couples in premarital counseling to expect challenges in their sexual relationship even if they saved themselves for marriage. He also spends more time talking to youth about pornography and the “redemptive side” of TLW, which emphasizes healing and forgiveness following sexual sin.
“I value criticism,” Buckley said. It “allows us to see another perspective.”
Another minister to modify his teaching on sexuality and relationships is Joshua Harris, author of the 1997 bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Last year, he announced he had changed his mind about some key points in the book – like the wisdom of steering clear of the dating culture. In December, Harris told NPR a sexual abuse scandal at the Washington-area church he pastored until 2015 made him start rethinking parts of his writings on sexuality. Harris was not implicated in the scandal.
“While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years,” Harris said in a statement on his website. “I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.”
Ross said tweaks to individual ministers’ presentations do not change the overall rightness of the purity message.
When “distortions” are stripped away, Ross wrote, TLW still proclaims an essential message: “All sexual expression should take place only between a husband and wife in biblical marriage,” and “Christ’s death on the cross makes forgiveness for sexual sins possible.”
“Multitudes of adults report that the TLW message was an important factor in their sidestepping sexual sin in their teenage years,” Ross wrote. “Multitudes of single adults continue to embrace and live out that message. Multitudes of married adults report that the absence of scarring from their teenage years is a major factor contributing to the beauty and joy of their current sexual expressions. Christ be praised.”

1/11/2019 11:03:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Court limits Jack Phillips’ religious bias lawsuit

January 11 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian cake artist Jack Phillips can proceed with his latest lawsuit alleging Colorado harassed him based on his religious beliefs, but he may no longer seek damages from nine of the 10 defendants targeted.

Alliance Defending Freedom photo
A Colorado district court has limited the scope of Christian cake artist Jack Phillips’ latest lawsuit to defend his First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression.

Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has legal standing to challenge Colorado’s discrimination law, the U.S. District Court for Colorado ruled Jan. 4 regarding a motion to dismiss the 2018 case. But most defendants successfully blocked Phillips’ pursuit of compensatory, punitive and nominal damages against them as government officials and individual citizens.
Only Colorado Atty. Gen. Cynthia H. Coffman remains an individual defendant in the case, having lost her appeal to block Phillips from pursuing equitable relief against her in her official governmental capacity.
“Because the Attorney General represents the Commission in proceedings to enforce” Colorado’s statute, Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel wrote, “and Phillips claims this enforcement is currently violating his constitutional rights, Attorney General Coffman is a proper defendant.”
Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the entire seven-member Colorado Civil Rights Commission won their motion to have the case against them dismissed, proclaiming immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In the district court ruling, Daniel acknowledges Phillips’ Christianity and the fact that the state law limits Phillips’ operation of his business. Because of the law, Phillips may not post on his business website a statement explaining that he refuses to bake items that violate his religious beliefs and free speech.
Phillips’ attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) praised the district court’s ruling to allow the case to continue, despite the limitations.
“We look forward to moving forward with this lawsuit to ensure that Jack isn’t forced to create custom cakes that express messages in conflict with his faith,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said in a Jan. 7 press release. “Colorado is acting in bad faith and with bias toward Jack.”
The latest case, Phillips v. Elenis, is the cake baker’s second legal battle against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Phillips filed the lawsuit in August 2018 after the state said he discriminated against a citizen who wanted to celebrate her gender transition with a blue and pink cake.
The latest lawsuit follows a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Phillips’ favor regarding Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission exhibited “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ religious beliefs in finding him guilty of discrimination in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled.
The district court ruling acknowledges Phillips’ use of his Christianity in business practices.
“Phillips is not only a cake artist, but a Christian. His faith teaches him ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” Daniel wrote, referencing 1 Corinthians 10:31. “According to this teaching, and other instructions from the New Testament, Phillips operates Masterpiece as an extension of his religious convictions.... Phillips’ faith informs what he will and will not do.”
Because of the state law, Daniel said, Phillips is not able to clarify on his website that “Masterpiece Cakeshop serves all people – no matter who they are or what protected characteristics they have. ... But because our religious beliefs guide us in all parts of our lives, we cannot create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with our faith. For example, because of our belief in the teachings of the Bible and our reliance on those teachings as the only source of ultimate truth, we cannot create custom cakes that through words, designs, symbols, themes, or images express messages that ... celebrate gender transitions” and other events.
Maureen Collins, an ADF web writer, said the latest case hopefully will settle the issue for Phillips.
“Hopefully this lawsuit will mark the end of Colorado’s bullying of Jack,” Collins blogged Dec. 17. “He deserves to see a day when he can freely live out his faith without fear of government punishment. After all, that is the God-given right of every person, no matter who they are or what they believe.”

1/11/2019 11:03:09 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New SBC efforts focus on evangelism

January 10 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Southern Baptists can expect to hear a lot about evangelism in 2019, according to Jim Law, executive director of evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “We’re looking for every opportunity to talk evangelism,” he told the Biblical Recorder in a phone interview about the recently announcedWho’s Your One?” initiative.

NAMB photo
NAMB President Kevin Ezell, left, and Jim Law, NAMB executive director of evangelism and leadership, right.

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., plans to give Southern Baptist associational leaders an advance look at the evangelism campaign during a simulcast event Jan. 31. “Who’s Your One?” will formally launch Feb. 20.
The rollout will include a ministry leadership toolbox created by NAMB to help pastors lead their churches to be more active in sharing their faith.
Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, will unveil the “evangelism kit” that includes educational materials, sermon outlines, prayer cards and NAMB contact information for pastors that want further guidance.
Hunt told the Recorder that he “could not be more excited” about the effort.
“Everyone can be involved and intentional,” he said. “We can all pray, invite, share our testimony, share the gospel and trust Jesus with the results. … If our over five million Sunday morning worshippers were to pray about their ‘one,’ I can only imagine what could happen. Let’s just do it. Thousands will come to Christ.”
Two weeks after the briefing for associational leaders, Hunt will preview the material with Southern Baptist state executives at their annual meeting in February, before promotion to churches begins.
Law expressed confidence in the campaign’s ability to help churches be more evangelistic because both Hunt and Greear have conducted similar, successful initiatives at their respective churches. Hunt previously served as pastor of Woodstock Baptist Church near Atlanta, Ga.
“We’ve got to prioritize evangelism again,” Law said.
Law also expects evangelism to be a “major topic of discussion” at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham this June.
“We’re not trying to focus on one particular resource,” he continued. “We’re trying to get people to use any resource they want to get people to share their faith.”
Hunt and Greear plan to embark on a “Gospel Above All” tour in the fall of 2019 and into next year. NAMB also has a number of national and regional events focused on evangelism.
A leadership training program called “Timothy+Barnabas” – which Hunt developed and led at Woodstock for years – came under the umbrella of NAMB’s leadership development arm on Jan. 1. Hunt will continue to lead the program and plans to host five training events in 2019 across the United States.
“Leadership and evangelism go together,” said Law, explaining that many congregations fail to share the Good News in their communities because they have not been led to do so by their church leaders.
Visit for more information.

1/10/2019 11:43:36 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Ashford: ‘Be our better selves’ in the public sphere

January 10 2019 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

As an observer of Christianity and public life, Bruce Ashford sees the good, the bad and the ugly of American political engagement. In a new book, Letters to an American Christian, he is seeking to change it for the better.

Bruce Ashford

In a whimsical yet informative series of letters between Ashford, provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a fictional character named Christian, the book seeks to address hot-button issues and ideologies in today’s American culture and how believers can speak thoughtfully and persuasively into them.
“I’m trying to show Christian conservatives how we can be our better selves, and I’m trying to appeal to progressives to show them why more conservative principles would be better for our nation,” Ashford said.
The recipient of the letters, Christian, is a university student among professors who are secular progressives and from a family of secular conservatives. In this context, Ashford seeks to help Christian consider how to address such topics as transgenderism, Black Lives Matter, nationalism and the relationship between church and state.
Whether a political junkie or a political novice, Ashford seeks to speak candidly to Christians seeking to better understand the nation in which they live.
“I wanted to write it for everyday Americans to try to reason from Christian premises and give Christian reasons for why I believe what I believe,” said Ashford, noting that the character Christian represents numerous questions he has fielded from believers who want to know how to interact with today’s issues.
The question is not whether American Christians should involve themselves in political discourse, Ashford said, but how they should do so. He encourages believers to insert their voices into their daily conversations in a loving manner, acknowledging that it can be especially difficult in social media conversations.
“It’s a strong Christian who, in the face of mocking and insulting, can stand there and give strong arguments with a gracious disposition,” Ashford said, stating that he seeks to find common ground with those who oppose his views and then make his argument. Through this approach, particularly on social media, he has found that half of the responses turn out to be positive.

Ashford said the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) can play a vital part in influencing the political sphere.
However, when political involvement and allegiances are not balanced well, Ashford said many outside observers think the SBC is affiliated with a political party.
“What we ought to do is make it very difficult for people to be able to classify us in that way,” he said, noting that this goal aligns with the purpose of his book by helping everyday Christians engage in the public square.
Ashford, who was part of a discussion carried by C-SPAN last fall, has been “pleasantly surprised” by the response to the book, published in mid-2018 by B&H Publishing of LifeWay Christian Resources.
SBC President J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., described Letters to an American Christian as a “fantastic, enlightening, and entertaining analysis that perfectly reads the zeitgeist and offers humble, practical, and biblically faithful counsel.”
Walter Strickland, former SBC first vice president and assistant professor of systematic and contextual theology at Southeastern, noted that the American political landscape “is an increasingly difficult space for Christians to navigate. Ashford offers a vision for Christian political engagement and applies it to the most pressing issues of the day ... for believers who desire to reflect biblical faith in the public square.”
Letters to an American Christian is available through Lifeway Christian Resources, Amazon, the iTunes store and other retailers.

1/10/2019 11:43:27 AM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments

After California wildfire, ‘God just keeps’ providing

January 10 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

His town devastated by the deadliest wildfire in California history, Pastor Doug Crowder was leading Magalia, Calif., Pines Baptist Church to serve 300-500 meals per day to the community. The problem was he had no bread to make the French toast his cook had planned for the next day’s breakfast.

Photo from Facebook
Magalia, Calif., Pines Baptist Church responded to November's deadly Camp Fire by serving 300-500 meals per day to the community, including a Christmas Eve dinner with hundreds of pounds of brisket.

That’s when a man from a local food bank walked up and said, “Hi, I’m Chuck.... Our warehouse burned down, and we need to get rid of some stuff. Do you need any bread?”
Such unexpected provision, Crowder told Baptist Press (BP), repeatedly has sustained community ministry by Magalia Pines even though the congregation launched its effort weeks ago with no money and no food. Through their ministry, the church also has seen a spiritual harvest in Magalia, which was approximately half destroyed by November’s Camp Fire.
Meanwhile, the neighboring town of Paradise, Calif., is almost completely destroyed. Most residents scattered, and churches are undertaking a ministry of counseling and listening.
The Camp Fire ravaged Northern California Nov. 8-25, killing 86 people and causing an estimated $16.5 billion in damage, according to media reports. The California Southern Baptist Convention’s (CSBC) disaster relief ministry has partnered with local churches to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of fire victims.
In both Magalia and Paradise, pastors have had to decide whether to maintain a focus on ministry amid destruction of their own homes.
That’s what Crowder did at Magalia Pines after his home burned down. And he’s glad he did. The unsolicited provisions the church has received have included produce, meat, a forklift, RVs, tools, clothes, propane and enough water to distribute 12 tons per day.
“We didn’t actually go looking for anything,” Crowder said. “God just keeps bringing the stuff,” including “that ridiculous water supply.” The “worldwide flood” of provision began, he said, following publication of a BP story about the church’s plight and Crowder’s harrowing rescue of some 30 locals Nov. 9.
As the community ministry continues, Magalia Pines has seen full worship services, salvation decisions and two weddings for local couples convicted they should not live together apart from marriage. One man who had never been in a church before told Crowder, “God and this church saved my life. The least I can do is give it to Him.”
Regarding the destruction of his own home, Crowder said, “We consider it a blessing” because no fire victim can say to him, “You have everything, so you don’t understand.”
At Paradise Ridge Southern Baptist Church in Paradise, Pastor Bob Sorensen likewise is ministering despite the loss of his house. In the early days of the fire, Paradise Ridge hosted firefighters and CSBC disaster relief volunteers in its building. Now, less than 5 percent of the church’s 60 regular attendees remain within 20 miles of Paradise, Sorensen said.
In addition to tending to minor damage of the church facilities, Sorensen has “walked the ashes with a lot of people.”
“I wept with them,” Sorensen told BP, “rejoiced when they found something. About the only thing that lasts [through the fire] is pottery.”
First Baptist Church in Paradise – whose pastor, Sam Walker, also lost his house – has hosted CSBC disaster relief chaplains in the church building. Walker has connected with and prayed for fellow community members and opened the congregation’s food pantry.
“I’ve really appreciated” the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains’ “being there” to counsel community members, Walker said. “I can’t be there every day” because “there’s a lot of stuff we are trying to do to just get our own family back into a place of functioning.”
Charles Woods, director of missions for the local Sierra Butte Baptist Association, asked believers everywhere to pray for recovery efforts in Magalia and Paradise.
“This is a time to pray for them that God’s presence would be revealed in a very loving way,” Woods told BP, “that even through the fires and flight, God is still there.”

1/10/2019 11:43:19 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Churches ramp up background checks to ensure safety

January 10 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

As churches become aware of potential safety issues, more are signing up for background check services through LifeWay Christian Resources’ OneSource program.

“The numbers have increased dramatically since we began our relationship with,” said LifeWay’s Jennie Morris. “On average, we add 160 customers a month.”
Since January 2009, more than 16,000 customers have conducted more than 320,000 screenings with through the LifeWay OneSource program. In 2018, more than 1,800 new churches signed up for the program.
Part of the growth, Morris said, comes from offering a $10 price point for a search that includes nationwide sex offender registry, various terrorist watch lists, more than 600 million felony, misdemeanor and traffic records searches, as well as Social Security number validation.
According to Morris, around half of the searches return some type of offense. Most are only for minor incidents, but historically, close to 2 in 10 discover a misdemeanor or more serious crime.
Churches have begun to recognize how pervasive abuse in churches can be.
A 2018 LifeWay Research survey found 12 percent of Protestant pastors say someone on church staff has sexually harassed a congregation member at some point in the church’s life, while 16 percent say a staff member has experienced sexual harassment in a church setting.
Having some peace of mind is part of the reason Rachel Steele, a ministry assistant at Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., said her church uses the service. The background checks are the “first level of due diligence,” Steele said.
“We want to have a basic idea of who we are working with,” she said. “For volunteers with kids, we need to make sure there are no offenses of note that would make it unwise to allow individuals to serve in those circumstances.”
Les Seal served as a pastor at Harper Creek Baptist Church in Battle Creek, Mich., and started using for individuals working with kids and students. He said it was part of “taking steps to provide a safe and friendly environment for the children.”
Protection for children at church is one of the primary reasons Oak Grove Baptist Church in Covington, Tenn., decided to use through LifeWay, according to Jim Martin, a retired deacon and Sunday School teacher.
The church added a background check requirement for all teachers of students to their child protection policy. Martin said no one has been disqualified from serving because of a background check, but church members are at peace knowing someone is checking the history of those working with youth and children.
He feels having the background check requirement in place may also have kept some potentially problematic volunteers from applying.
A lawyer recommended Oak Grove use background checks for their volunteers to provide not only protection for the children, but also legal protection for the church itself.
Martin said Oak Grove uses it for Sunday School teachers, AWANA leaders, Upward coaches, children’s church volunteers, mission trip leaders, and church staff. “If you love kids, you have to protect them from folks with evil intentions,” he said. “You cannot just leave it up to a volunteer selection committee and hope for the best.”
For more information on background checks, visit or call (800) 464-2799. For additional resources to help churches prevent sexual abuse or other moral failures by staff members or volunteers, visit, or

1/10/2019 11:42:54 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Jimmy Allen, SBC president and ‘energetic dreamer,’ dies

January 10 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Jimmy Allen, a former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president and entity leader known for his gregarious personality and engagement with cultural issues, died Jan. 8 in Brunswick, Ga. He was 91.

SBHLA photo
Former SBC President Jimmy Allen, pictured here at a press conference during the 1978 SBC annual meeting, was remembered as "driven" and an "energetic dreamer."

The last SBC president to serve before the convention’s Conservative Resurgence, Allen also was a confidant of President Jimmy Carter and once met with Ayatollah Khomeini during the Iran hostage crisis. Allen led the SBC’s Radio and Television Commission from 1980-90 and the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Christian Life Commission from 1960-68.
During Allen’s 1968-80 pastorate of 9,000-member First Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, the congregation was among the SBC’s baptism leaders and established a range of social ministries.
“He was the most energetic dreamer I think I’ve ever known,” said Allen biographer Larry McSwain, a former dean and provost at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “He was driven by a call from God as a young man that never left him, and he had a passion for people that shaped the kind of ministry he had throughout the many chapters of his life.”
A hallmark of Allen’s SBC presidency was Bold Mission Thrust, a convention-wide campaign adopted in 1978 “to enable every person in the world to have the opportunity to hear and to respond to the gospel of Christ by the year 2000.” Allen was among the campaign’s chief promoters.
Jimmy Draper, retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources and a friend of Allen’s since the 1950s, called Allen an excellent preacher and a passionate evangelist.
“The night [the SBC launched] Bold Mission Thrust, there was a huge crowd,” said Draper, SBC Executive Committee ambassador. “It was one of the most impressive evenings as [Allen] challenged us to implement Bold Mission Thrust. Even though we disagreed on a lot of things, I respected him. He was a good communicator and had a heart to see people reached for the gospel.”
Gender diversity marked Allen’s presidential appointments and SBC program decisions. At his first annual meeting to preside in 1978, a woman, Marian Grant, chaired the Program Committee and 15 women were appointed to SBC committees, according to McSwain’s biography Loving Beyond Your Theology. Five additional women had program roles, including addresses by Coretta Scott King and Ruth Graham Bell.
Allen’s intense work ethic, McSwain said, led him to sleep only about four hours a night and consume “coffee by the gallon.” He “had met everybody, and he knew everybody,” often calling pastors “Doc” when he couldn’t recall their names.
His engagement with social issues included efforts to battle racism and segregation during the Jim Crow era. Allen said in a 2008 interview his concern about racism began as a teenager when a conference at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center led him to rethink prejudiced views.
“My sense is that the Bible itself is our authority and our mandate and that the Bible is very clear about God creating all men in His image,” Allen said in 2008. “And therefore there’s a mandate in God’s Word to oppose any kind of discrimination and racial prejudice.”
At the Texas Christian Life Commission, Allen advocated for the integration of Texas public schools and helped organize a conference on race at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His 1969-71 presidency of the BGCT culminated with an interracial gathering of 41,000 Texas Baptists from various conventions in Houston’s Astrodome.
Allen’s advocacy of racial justice brought so many threats to his family that he and his wife Wanda established a secret pattern of rings for their home telephone to let their children know a parent was calling rather than a white supremacist with a death threat, McSwain said in a 2008 interview.
While SBC conservatives and moderates alike came to applaud Allen’s progressive thinking on race, McSwain told Baptist Press, his “progressivism” in other areas like theology and U.S. politics “probably triggered some reaction” from “grassroots” Southern Baptists involved in the Conservative Resurgence.
In his latter years, Allen participated in moderate Baptist groups like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the New Baptist Covenant.
Politically, Allen used his vast social network to help Carter carry Texas in the 1976 U.S. presidential election, McSwain said. Allen “lived on the telephone” and obtained “carte blanche access to the White House after Carter became president. ... Carter often called him for counsel” and “frequently addressed him as his pastor.”
On Christmas Day 1979, Allen was part of a nongovernmental U.S. delegation that met in Iran with the ayatollah amid a standoff over 52 Americans being held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. When the delegation initially was refused an audience with Ayatollah Khomeini, McSwain said, Allen appealed to his status as immediate past SBC president. Following his meeting with the ayatollah, Allen met with the U.S. hostages.
Among Allen’s deepest personal struggles was the deaths of his son, a daughter-in-law unrelated to that son and two grandchildren stemming from AIDS. He detailed the experience in the 1995 book Burden of a Secret. Allen also became an advocate for AIDS patients.
Allen’s funeral will be held Jan. 14 at First Baptist Church in St. Simons Island, Ga.

1/10/2019 11:42:41 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists commission 50-plus church planters

January 9 2019 by Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

More than 50 new church planters were commissioned by Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina staff in a service that highlighted the convention’s commitment to plant new churches and share the gospel across the state, including with the many internationals now living here.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
More than 50 church planters who partner with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina were commissioned Nov. 10 at Piedmont Baptist Association’s building in Greensboro, essentially as missionary church planters.

The service and dinner were held Saturday, Nov. 10, at Piedmont Baptist Association’s building in Greensboro. It drew primarily Hispanic and Asian church planters from around North Carolina who are partnering with the convention’s church planting team and receiving financial support, coaching support or both from team consultants.
Through that team, North Carolina Baptists have facilitated the planting of 494 new churches since 2014, Chuck Register told the assembly. Register is the convention’s executive leader for church planting and mission partnerships.
Sixty-five percent of those new churches have non-Anglo memberships, he said. Those new churches have counted 24,312 professions of faith in Christ as Savior during the same period.
“A commissioning service is always exciting when we commission our brothers and sisters that God has brought from across the world,” said Register.
North Carolina is now home to more than 160 language/culture groups, most often referred to as “people groups,” in missions strategy. Some of those groups have very few Christians among them at present and constitute a major missions challenge for North Carolina Baptists.
In his keynote message based on Jeremiah 29, Register told the planters, “God has a plan for your life,” and added that the planting of that new church is part of God’s plan.
Register compared life to a tapestry being woven by God into a beautiful picture, but for now planters only see the tangle and chaos of threads from the back side of the tapestry, not God’s ultimate picture on the other side.
“Discipling new believers is part of that beautiful picture God is weaving for your life,” he said. Church planting sometimes involve pain, Registered acknowledged. But when God’s plan and our pain collide, they should be driven to God, where we will find a beautiful time of worship.
Well over half the church planters commissioned were Hispanics, a nod to the state’s high Hispanic population, estimated at upwards of one million. William Ortega is church planting consultant for Hispanics.
The Asian church planters were from some 70 Asian language groups the church planting team currently works with, led by church planting consultant Ralph Garay. Some of the planters have been involved in convention life for years and are starting their second, third or more churches.
The prayers of North Carolina Baptists are a key element to the church planting ministry, said Mark Gray, church planting team leader on an interim basis.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, was keynote speaker.

“If we can get North Carolina Baptists to pray, we will see fruits of those prayers as church planters of multiple languages are raised up across the state,” he said. Gray said the team has received numerous calls from people across the United States who say God has called them to start churches in North Carolina. Often these planters have had no prior connection with the state, Gray said, “yet they are being obedient and they come, often at great sacrifice.”

Two church planters gave testimonies of God’s faithfulness as they have started new churches.
M.C. Ko, a native of South Korea, acknowledged he has struggled during the past two years as he has helped launch a multi-site Korean language church called The Connect Church in the Cary/Durham area.

Prayer has helped pull him in God’s direction, Ko said. When he is affected by turmoil, problems and stresses, he reminds himself that taking care of such challenges are God’s job, not his. Ko reminded planters the churches they are starting belong to Jesus, not them.
Hispanic Pastor Barry Matos told how he resisted God’s call to start a new Hispanic church in Kannapolis, but he finally surrendered and went.
Matos said he and a small group of members managed to get their church a place to meet in a converted storefront building on Cannon Boulevard in Kannapolis.
Despite having no money, they managed to install a floor, ceiling and other elements in the building.
Help from the Baptist State Convention and other churches was a part of that, he said.
Even getting his seven children through college has been possible with God’s help, he testified.
“He will provide if you trust Him and are faithful and honor Him with your firstfruits,” Matos said.

1/9/2019 9:20:18 AM by Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina | with 0 comments

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