September 2011

Iranian pastor refuses to recant, faces execution

September 28 2011 by Baptist Press

TEHRAN – A Christian pastor in Iran has twice refused to recant his faith in court and could be executed within days, which would make him the first since 1990 to be put to death by the government for apostasy.

Yousef Nadarkhani, who leads a 400-person house church movement, refused in court on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 to recant Christianity and was scheduled to get two more chances on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28, according to the British-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which monitors religious freedom.

If he refuses the next two times to recant, he will be executed, CSW reported.

Unlike the case of the two American hikers who were freed, Nadarkhani’s case has yet to receive widespread worldwide attention, although the Christian community has followed it since his arrest in 2009.

“The American interfaith delegation ... who made headlines when they traveled to Tehran and secured the release of the two American hikers last week should pack their bags again,” Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Religious Freedom and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wrote Sept. 26. “They need to make a return trip. And they better hurry.”

Yousef Nadarkhani

Nadarkhani seemed to have a sliver of hope earlier this year when the Iranian Supreme Court ordered a lower court to examine whether he was ever a Muslim – a fact essential to determine whether he left Islam for Christianity. But that lower court in Rasht, Iran, found that although Nadarkhani was never a practicing Muslim “he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry,” CSW reported.

Advocates familiar with Nadarkhani’s case said conditions of his imprisonment have varied from solitary confinement to being allowed visits from family members and his attorney. Jason DeMars, president of Present Truth Ministries, a group that works with Christians in Iran, said officials have repeatedly used pressure tactics to force Nadarkhani to become a Muslim, including threats to seize his children and arresting his wife on apostasy charges. During June 2010, officials found his wife, Fatemah Pasindedih, guilty of the charges, but her conviction was stricken on appeal, and she was released in October.

Nadarkhani has had run-ins with Iranian officials before. In December 2006, he was arrested on other apostasy-related charges and held for two weeks. Officials have targeted Nadarkhani, DeMars said, because he leads a house church movement.

There is no Iranian criminal statute requiring the execution of those who abandon Islam.

According to DeMars, the judges who issued the ruling appear to be relying on at least one fatwa, or religious edict, by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and on edicts issued by Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a current religious leader in Iran. The edicts are based upon Shiite interpretations of the Quran and Hadith, a written record of the sayings and actions of Muhammad.

The last person to be executed for “apostasy” in Iran was Hossein Soodmand, who was hanged on Dec. 3, 1990. Soodmand’s case has parallels with Nadarkhani’s. Soodmand also was a pastor, and he also became a Christian as a teenager. Soodmand however, believed in the Islamic religion as a child.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press, with reporting from Compass Direct News.)
9/28/2011 8:22:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Roman Gabriel III uses technology in ministry

September 28 2011 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Roman Gabriel’s name commands attention in the world of sports. His father’s successful football career created that fame. The senior Gabriel played high school football at New Hanover High School in Wilmington. He went on to star for the North Carolina State University football team, and played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.

While Roman Gabriel III followed in his father’s steps for a short time, God had bigger plans for him. Today he leads Sold Out Youth Ministries with headquarters in Boone. At the heart of this ministry is a life changed from the calling of the gridiron to the gospel.

Gabriel says, “My childhood was definitely out of the norm, surrounded by the sights and sounds of professional football and being the son of a very famous NFL quarterback. My dad played football from the time I was born until I graduated from high school, I knew early on I wanted to be just like him and play quarterback in the NFL.

Roman Gabriel III, seen here at the NFL Pro Bowl, uses social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to share biblical values to young, aspiring athletes.

“Our family’s life was definitely in the media spotlight in Southern California, but my mom did everything to keep my brother and I grounded through church. I believed in God, but it was not until my parents’ divorce and the resulting pain that I realized my need for Him.

“During that time I threw myself into sports because I felt comfortable on the field. But I realized quickly that carrying anger, guilt, and pain hindered my ability to experience any joy in my life. I realized that there was a void that could not be filled no matter what I accomplished.

“My destiny changed when I attended a Billy Graham Crusade with my Pop Warner football team at the age of nine. I realized that God wanted to have a personal relationship with me through trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior. It did not happen that night, but God did take hold of me.

“Four years later I accepted Christ as my Savior at a church youth retreat. But it was not until college and the special friendship of two teammates that I understood what it meant to surrender and walk daily with Christ.

“I made a commitment to follow Him both on and off the field. It was – and still is – the best decision I have ever made. God used that time in my life to prepare me for pro football and eventually for full-time ministry. The peaks and valleys of life and the lessons learned on the football field have given me a unique platform to share the gospel with passion, intention, and clarity.”

After playing college football for the University of New Mexico, a short stint with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and one year in the now defunct United States Football League (USFL), a neck injury ended his pro career. Today he ministers to high school, college and professional football players. Roman teaches football skills and life principles from the Bible.

He delivers a straightforward, challenging message from scripture at conferences, men’s events, youth outreaches, Upward banquets and Sunday worship services. For 17 years Gabriel has covered the Super Bowl through a television show (Sold Out), and with streaming video and video updates posted on his website. His stories include testimonies from players on the two competing teams, from coaches and from past champions.

Part of his work at the Super Bowl is to enlist professional players to join him in modeling biblical values to young, aspiring athletes. Throughout the game he is posting updates from the players on Facebook, and tweeting their stories.

Roman says, “Through Sold Out Ministries, God has allowed my wife, Marsha, and I to bring home a message of hope grounded in character and faith, accountability, teamwork, and a strong anti-drug and alcohol message. I am grateful to God for the privilege to challenge church leadership, men’s ministry, youth, and family with the most powerful message in the world – the gospel!”

Jeremiah 29:11 is his life verse: “For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord plans to prosper you and not to harm you so that you might have a future and a hope.”

When Roman Gabriel III walks into a room, people notice. When he speaks, people listen. His commanding presence sets the tone for his powerful message.

He adds, “God has blessed me with the opportunity to reach out to youth and family, knowing that so many today live a life without purpose or hope. It is our job as Christians to let people know that God has an individual plan for each one. We can never reach our full potential until we tap into the source of real power, joy, and abundant life – Jesus Christ. I always emphasize when I speak to young people that its not about who you are, but whose you are!  Be bold, and share the Good News and let God do the rest! That’s what it’s all about!”

Roman’s Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at It’s all about faith, family and sports.

Visit his website:; Facebook page: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect with him on Twitter: romangabriel3rd; email him: or call (910) 431-6483.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This item is part of a package about escalating technology improvements to benefit ministry. The Biblical Recorder is focusing on the Seven Pillars for Christian Ministry adopted by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. For more stories on technology in ministry or to find out about the entire package, please visit here.)

9/28/2011 8:17:00 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

40 Days for Life set for next campaign

September 28 2011 by Jennifer Hatcher, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Beginning today, the pro-life outreach known as 40 Days for Life will hold its latest prayer campaign in the United States and across the world in an effort to end abortion.

The first campaign began with a pro-life group trying to prevent an abortion clinic from opening in Texas in 2004. Over the span of three years, 40 Days for Life changed to a national campaign and spread to other countries.

Since its inception, 40 Days has received reports of 4,313 unborn lives saved from abortion as a result of its campaigns, which focus on peaceful prayer vigils outside clinics. In addition, 53 abortion clinic workers reportedly have quit and 14 abortion centers have closed down following outreaches at clinics. Participants from more than 13,000 church congregations have been involved, with more than 400,000 volunteers taking part in the campaigns.

In the new campaign, there will be participants at 301 locations, an increase of about four dozen over last spring’s outreach, according to the 40 Days for Life website. These include sites in Canada, England, Spain, Australia, Argentina and Germany.

The growth of 40 Days as a biannual campaign has presented a challenge for national director David Bereit. In the past, he would go to many of the vigils and interact with those praying outside clinics.

“There has been unbelievable growth ... we can’t be with as many people. It is beautiful to see the Holy Spirit where we cannot go,” Bereit told Baptist Press.

As a community effort, 40 Days for Life uses three components in its campaigns, Bereit said. Participants 1) pray and fast to end abortion, 2) participate in vigils and 3) have grassroots community outreach.

“We provide daily devotionals for prayer,” he said. “For fasting, we leave it up to them, because it is a very personal thing.”

The effort follows a pattern of biblical history in which God used 40-day periods to teach His people to recognize His power and trust in Him, 40 Days for Life officials say.

Bereit connected the campaign with the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years before being led into the Promised Land.

The 40th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion is less than 18 months away. Bereit hopes “abortion will be nearing its end.”

Despite the deeply ingrained nature of abortion in American society, he believes God can bring change soon.

“My ultimate hope is to see abortion ended through the faithfulness of God’s people,” Bereit said. This fall’s campaign will conclude Nov. 6.

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Jennifer Hatcher, a senior at California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., is attending the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ Washington Journalism Center this semester and serving as an intern with Baptist Press.)
9/28/2011 8:14:00 AM by Jennifer Hatcher, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NCBM remember 9/11

September 27 2011 by K. Allan Blume, BR editor

When terrorists flew American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Gaylon Moss was in his office in Cary. Like most Americans, he was shocked and perplexed by the news. As North Carolina Baptist Men’s (NCBM) Disaster Relief director and volunteerism coordinator, Moss would not have time to mentally or emotionally process these events before a 10:59 a.m. telephone call came to him from the national coordinator of Baptist Men’s disaster response teams.

The voice on the other end of the phone asked Moss to place all N.C. Baptist units on standby. He recounted the events of that morning in a memorial service at First Baptist in Boone on Sept. 11, 2011. He said, “This is unprecedented to have that many units on standby ... feeding units, shower units, everyone!” He sensed that the events of the day would significantly impact America and the ministry of NCBM.

The memorial service was a 10-year anniversary gathering of the first NCBM disaster response team to arrive at the Pentagon. It afforded these volunteers a time to remember their work from 10 years ago, and memorialize the occasion with First Baptist’s congregation in their morning worship service.

Moss remembered calling Skip Greene that day 10 years ago and assigning him to assemble a response team. The first thought was that the team would be going to New York. Later he called Green to send them to the Pentagon.

The team left at midnight Tuesday and arrived at the Pentagon at 9 a.m. Wednesday. A police motorcycle escort led them to their place of ministry for the next 20 days. They were not prepared for what they saw or felt. Charlie Fox was on the team. He remembers, “We traveled all night and were very tired on arrival. As the motorcycle police led them to the scene, Fox remembers, “the smell of fire on our arrival. It took a minute for it to sink in.” It was not a brushfire or house fire in the area. “That the smell was the Pentagon.” When they arrived in the parking lot, “We just sat a moment and cried, (with) the realization that the greatest nation in the world was vulnerable,” Fox said.

BR photo by K. Allan Blume

Gaylon Moss was one of the speakers at First Baptist Church in Boone for the special remembrance ceremony for Sept. 11. Moss, North Carolina Baptist Men disaster relief director and volunteerism coordinator, remembers the call that day when he was told to put all the teams on standby for deployment to New York or to the Pentagon.

Setting up in the parking lot their emotions changed from shock, to sadness, to anger, to a focus on their purpose – ministering to the needy.

Rob Holton, another lay leader of First Baptist said, “This was my first ever trip on a Baptist Men’s team. None of the folks who went to Washington knew they were going. Then all of a sudden a few hours later ... we were on the road and arrived less than 24 hours after the planes hit.”

Holton was shocked “Seeing those big, huge light poles laying on the ground, realizing a plane had to be that low to hit them ...” It gave sobering perspective to their assignment.

Graydon Eggers and Rob Holton were together in Eggers’ office when the terrorists used airplanes to attack America. That afternoon it was Eggers who recruited Holton to join the team. Eggers remembers the exhausting work that first week. People were in a state of shock. But he remembers most the way Americans were drawn together.

Eggers recalls, “It really didn’t hit me until we were on our way home somewhere along I-81. We stopped at a Burger King. We still had our yellow shirts on, and our caps, and our ID badges. We were tired and were just trying to get a meal. We didn’t realize what was going on around us ... the manager came up to us and asked us what we had been doing. He said, ‘your money is no good here.’ He just wanted to have some part in the recovery.”

Another First Baptist team member was Dan Norman. He reminded everyone, “N.C. Baptist Men is not just a place for men to serve. Women served on the Pentagon team, too.”

About a month after 9/11 some Baptist Men were invited back to the Pentagon for a memorial service. Families of those who died in the crash were invited along with military dignitaries. He said, “N.C. Baptists were given a cross made out of the rubble of the Pentagon. It was a gift to say ‘Thank you’ to N.C. Baptists for our involvement.”

Greene said,  “The Pentagon never had a chapel before 9/11. Where the plane impacted the Pentagon is now a chapel of worship.”

Larry Woodrow (Boone) and Dale Duncan (Spruce Pine) told stories of their service at the Pentagon and in New York City.   “I’ve learned to listen an awful lot,” Duncan said. “I was nothing but the dishwasher on the feeding team ... but most of all I had the opportunity to sit, talk, witness and share Christ with those hurting firemen, FBI and policemen who came to our food kitchen.”

Duncan continued to witness for Christ through 8 trips to Ground Zero. At least 20 Baptist churches have been planted in New York since that tragic day.

He pointed out that, “Forty percent of the churches in Manhattan, New York sprang up since 9/11,” evidence that Baptist Men is still working in New York City.

Related story
9/11 survivors reflect during night of hope
9/27/2011 8:47:00 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR editor | with 0 comments

Patterson, Mohler discuss name change

September 27 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Paige Patterson and R. Albert Mohler Jr., each presidents of Southern Baptist seminaries and members of the task force appointed to study the possibility of a new name for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), have made public comments on the issue.

“The Southern Baptist Convention is no longer a regional convention, and every Southern Baptist concerned for the lost will be interested in removing all self-imposed barriers to the evangelization of all men,” Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said in a news release Sept. 21 after the task force was announced by SBC President Bryant Wright during the Sept. 20-21 meeting of the convention’s Executive Committee.

“By the same token Southern Baptist stands for something very significant in a number of ways and should not be abandoned without careful thought and consideration of many attending circumstances.”

Patterson, a former SBC president and an architect of the Conservative Resurgence, said he has given his life in service to the convention.

“I am not sure how qualified I am to be on the committee, but I am sure that I love the churches of the SBC and wish to do nothing to harm them in any way,” Patterson said, adding that all Southern Baptists should feel free to state their opinions and convictions publicly or to Jimmy Draper, chairman of the name change task force, or to any member of the committee.

“We expect that, and we want that,” he said. “I also appeal to our people to keep this discussion on the highest conceivable level, leaning over backwards to avoid judgments of anyone’s motives, which only God can know. I also appeal for the ardent prayers of all our people for our gracious Lord to grant this committee wisdom beyond anything that we could ever have on our own.”

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said changing the name of the convention is no simple rebranding effort.

“There is tremendous value in the established name and reputation of the Southern Baptist Convention, especially when the denomination has put itself on the line again and again in defense of biblical truth and theological orthodoxy,” he wrote on his “Conventional Thinking” blog Sept. 20.

On the other hand, he said, “southern” refers to a region of the United States that gave birth to the convention but no longer contains it. The name also carries a deep stain associated with slavery and racism, Mohler noted.

“If these issues can be resolved, even to any significant degree, by a name change, a gospel-minded people would never hesitate to consider such a proposal.”

Mohler acknowledged that the idea of changing the convention name is a highly charged issue that has the potential to create division if not handled responsibly.

“To be honest, I am personally traumatized by the very idea of changing the denomination’s name. I feel an almost physical loss at the very prospect,” Mohler wrote. “It is a deeply and unavoidably emotional question for any Southern Baptist whose life is intertwined with the convention, its work and its churches.

“At the same time, our commitment to the Great Commission and the urgency of the gospel must exceed our emotional attachments and fears. A responsible movement of gospel churches – of Baptist churches – must be ready to ask this question and face it fearlessly. We can and will do this together.”

The task force, Mohler said, is not poised to make an irresponsible proposal and there is much hard work ahead.

“This decision will not be made by any task force. The name of the convention belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention and will ultimately be settled by its messengers,” Mohler wrote.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach with reporting by Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
9/27/2011 8:23:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

300 collegians join storm disaster relief

September 27 2011 by Joe Conway & Brandon Pickett, Baptist Press

BINGHAMTON, N.Y – With mud-out jobs awaiting volunteers literally in the thousands, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) has tapped into a new generation of volunteers. In an SBDR partnership involving the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) convention and Liberty University, 250-plus Liberty students will serve in the Binghamton, N.Y., area cleaning homes flooded by hurricane-driven rains, with more than 50 others to be deployed to Montpelier, Vt.

North American Mission Board (NAMB) disaster relief coordinator Bruce Poss said 2,600-plus homes in the Binghamton area alone have been damaged by flooding. The goal is for students to complete 260 jobs, a full 10 percent of the need.

“When we first discussed involving the students we thought we would have a good response with 50 or so interested,” said David Wheeler, associate director of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School and a national missionary for NAMB. “When word got out it shot across campus.”

First 100 registered. Then 200 and 300, the maximum number of students who could fit into the DeMoss Hall classroom set to host the three-hour training. And the students kept coming. Wheeler estimates 325 students came to the standing-room-only disaster relief training Wednesday night, Sept. 21.

“We were expecting 125 for the training, maybe 200 tops,” SBCV disaster relief director Mark Gauthier said. “The response was overwhelming. We presented an orientation and introduction to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and then we provided the complete training for mud-out.

“They are ready to work in homes. The students’ response demonstrates their passion to serve and share the gospel. They want to help,” Gauthier said.

“It’s just been an amazing thing,” Wheeler said. “I am blown away by this turnout, to say the least.”

The Liberty initiative may serve as a model for future response to disasters across the country. “I felt that we needed to get some younger folks involved in disaster relief,” Wheeler said. “I’d love to send teams out on a regular basis to help them build houses and all those kind of things.”

“We hope this is just the beginning,” said Mike Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York, of the two-week assistance the students will provide during late September and into early October.

Gauthier, Wheeler and the first group of 108 Liberty students departed the campus at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the rain to travel 450 miles aboard three buses to Davis College in Johnson City, N.Y., near Binghamton. They will work under the direction of SBDR incident commander Ed Greene of New Mexico.

Photo by Joel Coleman

A Liberty University student loads her gear into one of three buses heading from Virginia to New York for a disaster relief mission with the SBC of Virginia convention to aid New Yorkers whose homes were flooded in hurricane-related storms along the East Coast.

Students like Hannah Kearney will work from Saturday through Tuesday with experienced volunteers from Florida, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Virginia. The mission will repeat with a second set of 160 students who will work in Tiago and Broome counties and 50 more in Vermont.

“I think we realize how much we have to be thankful for and that’s why we just want to serve others,” Kearney, a Liberty University sophomore, said at the training.

Liberty junior Karin Thompson, making her first volunteer trip for disaster relief, said she doesn’t quite know what to expect when she gets to Binghamton. But she can’t wait to start serving. “I’ve always had a passion for sharing Christ with those who need to hear about Him and haven’t heard. I think it’s a great opportunity.”

“When we were contacted by Southern Baptists to help our brothers and sisters in New York, we didn’t blink an eye,” said Johnnie Moore Jr., Liberty vice president for executive projects and campus pastor. “We immediately recruited hundreds of students, and this weekend we will dispatch them with all their passion and determination to make as much of a difference as quickly as possible.”

Liberty students “will scrub walls, rebuild broken places and serve with the vision that even this devastated community can come alive again,” Moore said.

Jerry Falwell Jr., president and chancellor of Liberty University, noted, “When I saw the huge turnout of Liberty students in response to SBCV’s call for student volunteers to help flood victims in the Northeast, it was heartwarming but not surprising.... Our students don’t just profess their Christianity, they live it. They make me proud to serve Liberty and are the best evidence that Liberty is fulfilling its mission of training champions for Christ.”

“Every time a disaster occurs,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said, “we hear from many Southern Baptists who want to help including many college students. Some tasks can only be carried out by trained and certified disaster relief volunteers, but we are adding roles that others can fulfill after a brief training course.

“The thought of 300 Liberty University students mobilized to help the people of New York is encouraging,” Ezell said. We’re glad to have the opportunity to give help and hope to those in need. I’m grateful for the partnership with SBCV and Liberty University.”

NAMB provided masks, boots, gloves and Tyvek suits for the students to use. Volunteer SBDR drivers from Georgia hauled two trailers from Alpharetta to Binghamton with pressure washers, tools and supplies.

Bruce Poss and a team of SBDR volunteers and NAMB staff provide coordination for continuing disaster relief ministry across the country, including the Liberty University mobilization. One long-term response is preparing for a weather-mandated pause.

Ongoing work

Operations in Minot, N.D., will conclude in late September before the onset of winter. Incident commander Ira Shelton of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, said the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists’ mobile kitchen will depart this weekend. The majority of the convention feeding team will remain and prepare meals in a church kitchen until operations cease. Shelton said all priority one mud-out jobs have been completed in Minot, although more work will be done in the spring. Teams from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the California Southern Baptist Convention will work until the end of September.

In Vermont, incident commander Larry Koch of the Kentucky Baptist Convention reported 30 mud-out jobs have been completed in Montpelier by teams from the Baptist Convention of New England and the KBC. In Bennington, mud-out teams from the South Carolina Baptist Convention completed 46 jobs.

The work is taking between 20 to 70 hours per house, depending on the amount of damage, Koch said. Additional volunteers from Canada, Louisiana, Kentucky and South Carolina are on their way to Vermont, Koch said. And relief/recovery work continues in Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

There is so much clean-up and “ash-out” work in Texas that volunteer teams are on their way from California and the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention to help the hundreds of Texans already ministering. The SBTC and Texas Baptist Men volunteers continue to work together in Bastrop.

“Bastrop is by far the largest response,” said Jim Richardson, SBTC disaster relief director. “We are requesting two out-of-state units a week beginning on Monday.” Richardson said more than 100 ministry sites already have been identified in Bastrop alone. Volunteers will be housed at First Baptist Church in Bastrop. Other Texas ash out-work is ongoing in Atlanta, Spicewood and Magnolia.

Donations to the disaster response efforts by various state Baptist conventions can be made by contacting their respective offices. To donate to NAMB’s disaster relief fund, go to and click the “donate now” button; call (866) 407-NAMB (6262); or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR” to the number “40579.” A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board, with additional reporting by Susan Peugh. Brandon Pickett is director of media services with the SBC of Virginia.)
9/27/2011 8:16:00 AM by Joe Conway & Brandon Pickett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

VBS makes big impact on small church

September 26 2011 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Pastor Warren Boatwright spent a lot of time praying for a way to reach the families in his community. Through the compassion of another church, and because of his unyielding desire to reach the children, his prayers have been answered in a mighty way.

Boatwright planted Journey With God Ministries Church in Shelby in July 2010. He was born and raised in the same neighborhood as the church and knew the needs of the community firsthand. “There are churches in every other neighborhood in Shelby, but there was never a church in that neighborhood,” Boatwright said.

Boatwright began preaching in 1996 after a life-altering encounter with the gospel. “I was an alcoholic and a homeless vagabond in Atlanta when I met my wife. She was ministering to the homeless when we met,” Boatwright said. “She never gave up on me.”

Likewise, Boatwright never gave up on his hometown. He returned to Shelby in 2004, and after a few years felt confident God was leading him to plant a church near his childhood home.

Despite limited resources, he never strayed from his goal of reaching the families in his neighborhood with the gospel. With that desire planted firmly in his heart, Boatwright set out to reach his community by offering Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer. There was just one problem. The church did not have the resources to purchase curriculum.

Boatwright knew VBS would be a great opportunity to meet the families in his neighborhood. So, undeterred, he asked the director of missions in his association if any churches were willing to lend his church a used curriculum. One church responded by giving him the curriculum they purchased this year: The Big Apple Adventure.

That one gift has made a lasting impact in the community. “We needed something that would have a powerful impact,” Boatwright said. “We needed something that would set in motion a domino effect, and the Vacation Bible School did just that.”

So many children came on the first day of Vacation Bible School that it overwhelmed the 20-member congregation. “The first day was powerful,” Boatwright said. “We were not prepared for the number of children that came, and we quickly realized that we needed to improvise; so we let the kids do karaoke while we decided how to put the kids into groups.”   As it turns out, the children had a gift for singing. As soon as the children began to sing the pastor knew he had the makings of a children’s choir. So, Boatwright incorporated more music into the curriculum, and the children worked all week on a program to perform on family night. They did not disappoint.

“These children never sang in public before, but by the time we had family night on Friday, they sang a full service, with me preaching, in front of a full house and got a standing ovation,” Boatwright said. In just a matter of days the church went from having no children to having a full children’s choir of 11 children. “They started singing and have not stopped yet,” Boatwright said.

Not too bad for a church that did not have any children attending before VBS began. The small church averaged 25 children every day that week, including all the children who live on the same street as the church. “Because of (VBS), these children’s parents came in numbers,” Boatwright said. “We immediately got four families through the success of The Big Apple Adventure. Our work in our church has doubled.” Of course, he does not mind the extra work. Boatwright is excited to see God working in his community and seeing the power of the gospel change people from the inside out.

“I am baptizing one mother (soon),” he said. “A father of one of the children is now our sound man, and one mother has become the director of our Second Harvest outreach. The whole street has become involved with our church because of (VBS). That’s just the truth of the matter.”

Boatwright knows The Big Apple Adventure is a big reason his church is growing. But he also knows that what has happened in his church could not happen apart from prayer and without the power of God. “God has made a lot of things that seemed impossible, possible,” he said.

Gail Ledbetter, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Vacation Bible School specialist, said the kind of help Boatwright received is not uncommon.

“Almost one-third of the churches that have done Vacation Bible School have also participated in a link-up,” she said.

A link-up occurs when one church helps another church do VBS by sharing its resources. Most often a link-up will consist of a church coming to do the Vacation Bible School at another church, while other times a church will give its curriculum to another church.

“It’s that kind of sharing that makes it possible for other churches to reach their neighborhoods for Christ through the amazing work of Vacation Bible School,” Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter said preliminary statistics for 2011 indicated that 684 N.C. Baptist churches participated in Vacation Bible School, with a statewide enrollment of 87,538 children and 1,868 decisions to receive Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.  
9/26/2011 8:32:00 AM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Life Action Ministries revives God’s people

September 26 2011 by Burwell Stark, Special to the Recorder

In today’s world, North Carolina Baptists can easily become worn down and worn out. Pastors, too, can get overburdened in caring for the needs of the flock while balancing the responsibilities of their personal and family lives. Individual and corporate revival is what is needed to encourage the believer to press on for Christ. That is a burden shared by the team of Life Action Ministries.

At least 24 Baptist churches across North Carolina have hosted one of Life Action Ministries’ (LAM) travelling revival teams. These teams, Revival Summit and THIRST, are sponsored by the local church and have several different format lengths.

The THIRST conference is a four-day revival that runs Sunday through Wednesday, the Revival Summit has three formats. A church can choose the options of 8-days, 11-days or 15-days.

Whatever the length or team, the focus is on “improving the health of the church by calling believers to a deeper walk with Jesus Christ (and) introducing revival principles to the whole family.”

Contributed photo

North Carolina Baptist churches have benefitted from using Life Action Ministries. Several churches across the state have hosted different aspects of the ministry to reach out to the surrounding communities and to grow its members.

Bill Grisham, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Rocky Mount, is an advocate of Life Action Ministries. He was introduced to the ministry of LAM several years ago during a conversation with a friend of his who had a personal experience with the group.

Grisham said his heart “was drawn to what Life Action did and how they did it.” Another North Carolina supporter of Life Action Ministries is Michael Cloer of Englewood Baptist, also in Rocky Mount. Cloer has hosted LAM teams, having been “led by the Spirit to contact them and schedule” them to come.

After witnessing their ministry firsthand he said, “I know it was God who led me” to contact them.

Life Action Ministries was formed in 1971 by Del Fehsenfeld Jr., then a youth director at a church in Florida, and his wife Judy.

The original and continuing vision was for spiritual awakening in North America based upon 2 Chronicles 16:9, “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, that He may show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”

Though he went home to be with the Lord in 1989, Fehsenfeld loved to say, “As long as God is on His throne, revival is as possible as the sun rising tomorrow morning.”

What can a church expect from God during a revival meeting led by LAM? According to Cloer, a church can expect “a renewal … in many lives that causes fresh, passionate devotion to Christ and renewed commitments to serve Him through His body.”

Recently, First Baptist Church of Rocky Mount hosted a 15-day Revival Summit.

This is the third time the church has hosted a LAM team during Grisham’s 21-year tenure as senior pastor.

Grisham said the church has already seen some of what God was doing through the Revival Summit.

During one nightly testimony time, a grandmother stood before the congregation and shared that she and her husband were raising their 3-year-old grandson. She shared that this was not what she had planned for her life, especially since her grandson has anger issues.

While questioning why he struggles with anger, the Lord “said to her, ‘He is angry because you are angry.’” She confessed this to the congregation and asked for prayer. According to Grisham, “A large number of women gathered around her to pray for her and (committed) to continue to pray and minister to her.”

Cloer said reconciliation is “a large part of what (his church) experienced.” He tells the story of a previous revival where “one brother had not spoken to another brother in years. One night, he was convicted and moved by God’s Spirit to go to that brother and ask for forgiveness.”

Another witness of what God is doing through Life Action Ministries is Jerry Rankin, president emeritus of the International Mission Board.

As the result of a team ministering in the Mississippi church where he is a member, Rankin said, “Broken marriages were healed, members were reconciled, and lost people were saved.

“Many gained a new understanding of God’s work in their lives and resolved anew to live in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.”

The result of any revival should be obedience to Christ in all areas of life which would ultimately result in reaching others with the gospel. Grisham testifies that this renewal has produced “spiritual awakening in the lost world around (the believers).”

An April LAM revival in Tennessee gave birth to a resolution on prayer and repentance at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Phoenix.

The resolution was initiated by Jamie Work, pastor of Candies Creek Baptist Church in Charleston, Tenn., and a member of the SBC Resolutions Committee and the SBC Executive Committee.

Though started in 1971 by one man and his wife, today Life Action Ministries has several different ministries but still one purpose – revival.

Some of the different outreaches are: Revive Our Hearts, a ministry for women with Nancy Leigh DeMoss; Revival Summit and THIRST, two travelling ministries; the Lodge, a facility in Michigan for pastors and ministry leaders to come for retreat; a collegiate ministry and youth camp. For more information or to contact the ministry, please visit the website:

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Burwell Stark is a freelance writer and a member of Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest.)

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Seven-night S.C. revival meeting turns into 7 weeks

September 26 2011 by S.C. Baptist Courier

Second Church in Great Falls began its annual seven-day revival June 26. Forty-nine days later, on Aug. 14, the meetings finally ended, but only so the church could get on with the business of discipling 50 new Christians who made professions of faith during the revival, said Pastor Zack Williams.

“The daily meetings have stopped, but the revival continues,” Williams told the S.C. Baptist Courier. “The spirit of God is moving all over Great Falls.”

Every evening during the seven weeks, members of Second Church and other community believers met for a time of worship, dispersed, and then came back to the church for a midnight prayer time that typically lasted another hour and a half. “This is an absolute work of God,” Williams said. “We just sit back and let (God) work and are glorifying the name of his Son, Jesus. It has been amazing.”

Williams, who began his ministry at Second Church April 17, is quick to point out that the revival hasn’t been the work of one man — or one church.

Patrick Blackmon is the pastor of Trinity Church, which is located about a mile down the road. Blackmon began praying with Williams for the revival before it began, was at all of the worship and midnight prayer meetings, and even cancelled Wednesday and Sunday night services so church members could participate.

“I am privileged to be a part of this experience. It has been unfathomable,” Blackmon said. “This was birthed through midnight prayer on our knees and calling out to God, and He has responded in and through this revival. I never dreamed it would have ever taken place in Great Falls. It is exciting to watch the hand of God at work.”

Williams tells of a man who hadn’t set foot inside a church since 1953 but became a Christian July 30.

“Another man’s family prayed for him to be saved. He became a believer and has been at the church every night since praying for other family members to be saved,” Williams said. That man is Charles Dickson, an injured military veteran. Dickson still struggles after having had brain and reconstructive surgeries for injuries he sustained during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Dickson said he knew about God and prayed for his family while he was deployed, but he had never experienced Christ. He described himself as a man full of anger.

His wife and three children told Dickson about the revival services, and, in late July, he agreed to go. “It was unreal, the church was packed, and I could tell something was different there,” he said. Dickson’s injuries sometimes affect his short-term memory, but he is quick to recall what happened to him July 30. He went to Williams’ house to share some prayer requests, and ended up praying to receive Christ. “I’ve never known peace and contentment like this in my life,” he said. “If I’d known it would be like this, I would have done it a long time ago.”

Ted Hughes, director of missions for Chester Association, said he is thrilled.

“It’s been phenomenal to see the number of adults who are making professions of faith,” he said. “Both Zack and Patrick are sensitive to the Spirit. I am so excited and hope this will impact our entire association.”

Williams said prayer has fueled everything, and God is hearing the prayers of his people. “Great Falls is hungry for the Lord,” he said. “We are a former mill town and have a lot of poverty, drugs and addictions. The people are hungry for hope. Jesus is hope, and we are presenting Jesus to the community. They are responding, and their lives are being changed by the gospel.”

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Looter in flood damage gets gospel nudge

September 23 2011 by John Evans, Baptist Press

BARRE, Vt. – In flood-ravaged Vermont, chances to share the gospel can come in unexpected ways – including suspected looters.

Phill Steadman, pastor of Capstone Baptist Church in North Bennington, was helping clean a house after Hurricane Irene’s remnants deluged the state when he caught a man apparently attempting to loot the property.

“Before the conversation was over, I’d had an opportunity to share the gospel with this guy,” Steadman said.

The man recounted to Steadman that he once was in a coma after a car accident and had a dream of an old man looking through a book. The suspected looter didn’t know what the dream meant.

“I told him it was the Book of the Lamb, and I wanted to know if his name was in there,” Steadman said. “So it was a great opening to be able to share the gospel with him. He also stopped looting the house.”

As Baptists like Steadman and Capstone Baptist’s members continue to minister in word and deed, the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief effort in Vermont is slated to stand down Oct. 15. After that, any remaining work will be turned over to local churches and Vermont’s chapter of VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters), an association of organizations that do volunteer work.

Baptist disaster relief volunteers from New England, Kentucky and Texas pray before departing Resurrection Baptist Church in Montpelier to aid Vermonters whose homes sustained flood damage from Hurricane Irene.

With a backlog of houses to be cleansed of mold and a limited number of volunteers, Terry Dorsett, director of missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association, is grateful for every Southern Baptist Disaster Relief vehicle he sees on Vermont’s roads. But he also has a plea for Southern Baptists around the country:

“This is a pivotal moment in Vermont Baptist history. Don’t fail us now.”

Larry Koch, commander at the Southern Baptist command center at Resurrection Baptist Church in Mont Pelier, said the list of mud-out jobs in Vermont ready for work is more than the limited number of volunteers can handle in just a few weeks. In any case, he doesn’t have room to house enough people to finish the job.

“It’s very unlikely that we will clean the slate,” he said, although he hopes a potential large volunteer crew of Liberty University students from Virginia may change that.

Mud-out jobs to cleanse flooded houses of toxic mold spores can be grueling tasks. After dragging everything out of affected areas of the house and shoveling out the remaining mud, the crew must tear out all paneling, sheet rock, insulation – anything that can hold water and thus mold – up to a foot above the flood’s water line. Usually the floors go too.

Next comes a power wash, followed by crews treating everything with a bleach solution that kills mold. Finally, a crew has to go back and rebuild the part of the house that was torn out.

All this happens while the homeowner’s belongings – their whole lives – sit out on the lawn. “So you’ve got to oftentimes sit down with them and go through with them the things that can be kept and cleaned and the things that need to be thrown away,” said Bruce James, who serves as the evangelism and men’s ministry director for the Baptist Convention of New England and currently directs disaster relief for the convention. “For some people, that’s extremely difficult and heartbreaking….”

Homeowners who have insurance can pay for the mud-out work to be done, but those who don’t have it rely on volunteers like Vermont Baptists and Southern Baptists from other parts of the country.

“That’s the challenge,” Dorsett said. “As the urgency (of the situation) wanes, the teams wane as well, and the long-term effect of this is going to take us another two or three months before we’re really done with this. And the short attention span of the American public will have moved on before the problem’s actually all fixed.”

In the meantime, local church members and Southern Baptist volunteers are working every day to reach out with both physical aid and hope in Christ. People who were once told to grab a shovel and go help now are being trained more thoroughly, and independent-minded Vermonters are opening their homes to Vermont Baptists offering assistance. “We’ve been able to pray with virtually everyone we’ve worked with,” Steadman said. “We’ve had folks who have been coming to church since the hurricane that we would have never met any other way.”

Steadman asks Southern Baptists to keep in mind the ripple effects of current disaster relief efforts: People who otherwise might have never been exposed to the gospel are now hearing it, and long-term relationships are being developed.

“So somebody may come and spend a week or two weeks on a disaster relief trip or on a short-term mission trip,” the Vermont pastor said, “but the implications can be eternal.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Evans is a writer based in Houston.)

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