September 2012

Deep Impact leaders teach students to ‘share story’

September 13 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

After 15 years of working in retail, Dollie Noa was on her way to becoming a top-level manager, with no thoughts of looking back.
 
But before she could continue climbing the corporate ladder, she realized that life was more than work. She wanted to invest more of her time in serving God and loving her family.
 
“I believe God has a bigger plan than we can imagine,” she said. “God equipped me to step up and serve Him.”
 
Before long Noa quit her job. She took a 50 percent pay cut to work part time for a church and enrolled in Campbell University’s Divinity School.
 
She served 10 years as youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Spring Lake before God called her to serve as director of education and children at Alexis Baptist Church.
 
When North Carolina Baptist Men’s student mobilization consultant Tom Beam asked Noa to serve this summer as coordinator for Deep Impact in Charlotte, she found it to be a natural fit.
 
Noa is well acquainted with Deep Impact, having previously served as coordinator in Red Springs and in New Brunswick, Canada.
 
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Contributed photo

This summer, 1,600 students took part in Deep Impact through North Carolina Baptist Men. With construction, landscaping, prayer walking and Vacation Bible School, students helped multiply the outreach of local ministries.


She has also served about nine years during World Missions Week at Caswell.
 
Deep Impact weeks are opportunities for middle and high school students to spend one week during the summer serving and sharing their faith.
 
During the week Deep Impact youth also participate in evening worship services.
 
Deep Impact is sponsored by N.C. Baptist Men, under Beam’s direction. Deep Impact began 15 years ago.
 
The first locations were the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell in Brunswick County, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
 
This summer, 1,600 students participated in activities such as construction, Vacation Bible School, prayer walking, senior adult ministry and community outreach projects. In the state, Deep Impact was held in Greensboro, Hendersonville, Red Springs, Shelby, Caswell Beach and Bladen County.
 
Two weeks were also held in New York City and one week in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
This year was the first time camps were held in Charlotte, Rockingham and Avery County.
 
The Metrolina Baptist Association, and members of the team that helped plan the various mission project sites throughout Charlotte, joined with the Deep Impact youth during the week. Noa said their involvement is crucial, as it provides more opportunity for follow up.
 
“The youth teams will leave after the week, but this local team will still be here. We’re just a support; we want to help plug people into local churches.”
 
Before going out into the community to serve, each Deep Impact week begins with a time of evangelism and missions training.
 
“We all have a story to tell,” Noa said. “We want youth to learn how to build relationships so that they can share that story with others.”
 
Charlotte’s urban setting helped the youth participants, who represented rural churches, better understand how to serve and witness in a context beyond what is familiar and comfortable.
 
“This week has been small town meets big city,” said Amanda Monroe, minister of youth and children at First Baptist Church in Raeford. “I don’t want these youth to be afraid to be involved in urban ministry.”
 
Youth – some for the first time – met children who did not have food to eat every day. They also ministered to children with difficult situations at home.
 
“During Deep Impact the youth are able to experience different aspects of ministry and to have different experiences,” Monroe said. “We’re also learning new ideas to take back to use in our community.”
 
Derrick Andrews, youth director at New Bessemer Baptist Church in McLeanvsille, brought youth to Deep Impact for the first time this year. He also said he appreciates the opportunity Deep Impact provides youth to explore their different ministry gifts and talents.
 
The mission team Andrews led learned very quickly how to be flexible. Early in the week the team was assigned construction projects at a local assisted living facility.
 
However, they found themselves doing just as much ministry inside the facility, among the residents, as they did outside.
 
“Each one of the youth has something to offer, and this has helped them become more comfortable in using their gifts,” Andrews said.
 
Deep Impact was the first time Caleb Owen, member of Faith Baptist Church in Archdale, participated in a missions effort with his church. Owen said Deep Impact was an opportunity for him, as an older youth, to step up and help set an example.
 
“It sets an example for Christ; it’s sacrifice,” he said of the Deep Impact week. “I would do this my whole summer. It has been such a joy to serve.”
 
For more information about Deep Impact, visit www.baptistsonmission.org.
9/13/2012 1:53:17 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



IMB honors emeriti missionaries for service

September 13 2012 by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press

RIDGECREST – In a tiny, West African community under a star-filled sky, missionary Marvin Thompson would read scripture to villagers by the faint light of a kerosene lamp.

Thompson spent many days and nights being Christ’s heart, hands and voice to his people group, sharing Bible stories and building relationships.

“I’ve got some good memories of those experiences,” he recalled. “As well as throwing up the next day or two from some bad food I got,” he added with a chuckle.

Thompson, 62, and his wife, LaNette, 58, served as Southern Baptist missionaries for 26 years in West Africa. They are two of 82 new emeritus missionaries being recognized at a special, weeklong emeriti event sponsored by the International Mission Board (IMB), Sept. 7-13, at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.
 
Emeriti are retired missionaries with at least 15 years of service whom International Mission Board trustees vote to honor with the title.

The new emeriti joined more than 1,000 current emeriti who also attended the weeklong event, reuniting as part of the special “Year of Emeriti” observance celebrated every five years. The cumulative years of service of all emeriti missionaries ever honored is 28,929.

Pioneers in their field
The Thompsons, both Texas natives, were appointed missionaries in 1985 and served in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.

The couple became pioneers in chronological Bible storying, a method of teaching oral learners (those who cannot read) a series of Bible stories in a way that relates culturally to the learners. The Thompsons were the first IMB missionaries to use storying in West Africa. After seeing five churches established in their city, the Thompsons moved to a small Muslim village in Cote d’Ivoire where they continued to use the technique.

It was in Cote d’Ivoire that LaNette had the chance to share all 52 stories in the storying track with a recent widow who repented.

“When she accepted Christ, it was like that was the reason we were there; it was almost like that was the reason God called me when I was 12,” LaNette said. Someone had to come to reach this one woman in this remote village, “and it was just like that was my purpose.”
 
The Thompsons moved to Mali in 2002 and remained there until retirement in 2011. Their missions legacy lives on through the many nationals and missionaries they’ve trained, and through two of their three children who returned to West Africa as Southern Baptist missionaries.
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Photo by Will Stuart

Emeritus missionary Ann Pearce, right, who served for 39 years in Paraguay, helps Jo Yates with her corsage prior to the 2012 Emeritus Recognition Service held Sept. 10 at Ridgecrest, N.C. Yates served for 42 years in Paraguay. The women were two of 82 new emeriti recognized at the service.


The Thompsons now reside in Waco, Texas, where Marvin pastors Emmanuel Baptist Church and LaNette is pursuing a doctorate in educational psychology at Baylor University.

“We’re retired from the IMB, but not retired – just shifting gears,” Marvin said.

Added LaNette, “When He calls you to full-time service, it doesn’t end.”

Not ready to retire
New emerita Annette Hall isn’t slowing down, either. The 68-year-old Virginian appointed in 1973 served for 38 years as an IMB representative to North African and Middle Eastern peoples.

Hall was a nurse educator in two Middle Eastern nations but later moved to France in 1990 to work with Muslim immigrants. She adopted the chronological Bible storying method, using Bible stories to teach literacy and French as a second language.

“We were meeting their need by giving them access to the French language ... but then we were also giving them the gospel,” Hall said.

Living in Richmond, Va., since retirement, Hall has a passion to see Bible storying take root in the United States. She is connecting with Baptist leaders across state lines and hosting workshops to train others in the method.

“Retirement has come before I was ready for it,” she said. “I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. My goal is to keep training people and keep using stories as long as I’m able.”

Returning overseas
New emeriti Joe and Yvonne Bruce owe their marriage to their mutual passion for missions.

Joe, a 67-year-old Missouri native, was part of IMB’s second group of journeymen (two-year missionaries); he went to Chile in 1966. At the end of his term, he returned to the U.S. to attend seminary and married a fellow journeyman, the former Shirley Plumlee. They were appointed in 1971 and served in Honduras and Guatemala. One of their three children now serves in Europe as a missionary.

The Bruces returned to the U.S. in 1997 to work with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Just one year after they arrived, Shirley died after a sudden heart attack.

In 2001, Joe married Yvonne Helton of California, also a journeyman, who was appointed in 1975 and served in Guatemala and later in East Asia.

The couple transitioned back to the States in 2004, when Joe became coordinator for IMB’s International Learning Center near Richmond, Va. But after four years, Joe and his new wife felt God calling them back overseas. They became part of the Caribbean Itinerate Team, traveling to the Caribbean to further Baptist work.

“I used to think the greatest thing in the world was to lead someone to the Lord, and then I found out the greatest thrill is to watch someone that you’ve led to the Lord lead someone to the Lord,” Yvonne said, her voice full of emotion. “Then I found out a better thrill than that is to watch them plant a church that continues to [plant more churches] ... over and over again.”

Joe and Yvonne served for 38 and 37 years, respectively.

Remembering Cheryll Harvey
IMB president Tom Elliff honored the 82 new emeriti during a special recognition service Sept. 10. Emeriti, IMB staff, trustees and missionary appointment candidates filled Ridgecrest’s Spilman Auditorium and heard stories of missionaries’ calling, sacrifice and service.

Elliff also honored the late Cheryll Harvey, an IMB representative who served in Jordan for 24 years and was found Sept. 4 stabbed to death in her Jordan apartment.

“There is a new emeriti’s life and ministry that we especially need to celebrate this evening,” Elliff said. “We’re most assured that while we might wonder about the details [surrounding her death], Cheryll’s not worried about the details at all, and we would honor her most by honoring our Lord.”

Following a prayer for Harvey’s family, the suspect who was arrested and the lives of those Harvey touched, Elliff challenged new emeriti to continue their ministries after retirement.

Elliff entreated emeriti to consider the past, thank God for the privilege of providing energy to do His work, and to long for the future.

“For [the Apostle] Paul, I think that meant ‘I’m going to leave everything on the field. Between now and the day I die, I’m going to give everything I have to God,’” Elliff said. “Let’s make our latest years the greatest years.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is an International Mission Board writer.)

9/13/2012 1:43:06 PM by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hobby Lobby files suit against abortion mandate

September 13 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Evangelical-owned Hobby Lobby has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s contraceptive/abortion mandate, becoming the largest business yet to take action against the rule and underscoring once again that the issue impacts more than just Catholics.

With more than 500 stores in 41 states, Hobby Lobby’s owners always have made their faith a central part of their business. Their stores play Christian instrumental music and are closed on Sundays. Hobby Lobby contributes to Christian organizations and during Easter and Christmas runs full-page ads with gospel-centered messages in newspapers.

The mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, requires businesses to purchase insurance plans that cover contraceptives, including “emergency” contraceptives that can cause chemical abortions. The latter drugs often are labeled morning-after pills and come under brand names such as Plan B and ella. They can work before implantation and – in the case of ella – after implantation.
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Hobby Lobby is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed the suit Wednesday (Sept. 12). There now are 28 separate suits against the mandate, although most of them involve religious organizations that will be impacted by the rule, according to Becket.

Although Hobby Lobby’s insurance plans cover contraceptives that are preventative in nature, the company won’t cover anything that causes a chemical abortion, says David Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO.

“These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful,” Green said during a conference call with reporters. “... We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”

The mandate went into effect Aug. 1, but Hobby Lobby won’t be impacted until Jan. 1, when the new insurance year for its employees begins.

The mainstream media has focused most of its attention on Catholic organizations and has rarely used the word “abortion” in reporting on the controversy, but the reality is much different, said Becket Fund attorney Kyle Duncan.

“We hope that this lawsuit, on behalf of such a large and prominent evangelical Christian business, will draw attention to the fact that the government is trying to force people of all different faiths to violate their faith,” Duncan said during the conference call. “This is not by any means a Catholic-only issue. Some of the drugs involved in the mandate can cause an early abortion. And many Americans who are not Catholic have a problem with this.”

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, asserts the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of religion, speech and association. It asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the mandate. In a separate case in July, a federal court issued a ruling preventing the mandate from being enforced against a Colorado business whose owners are devout Catholics, but the ruling applied only to that business.

Hobby Lobby would face millions of dollars in fines if it does not comply. If it chose simply to drop insurance for employees altogether, it would face fines of $26 million per year, Duncan said. If it chose to offer insurance but simply not comply with the mandate, the fines would be even larger: more than $400 million per year, he said.

“The government has turned a deaf ear to the rights of business owners,” Duncan said.

Perhaps countering what critics will say about Hobby Lobby and the lawsuit, Green said the company cares about its employees.

“That’s why, unlike most major retailers, we are open only 66 hours per week and are closed on Sunday, to allow our employees to spend time with their family,” Green said.

Also, the company’s minimum wage for full-time employees is 80 percent above the national minimum wage, he said.

The issue is about religious liberty, Green said.

“Hobby Lobby has always been a tool for the Lord’s work,” he said. “... For me and my family, charity equals ministry, which equals the gospel of Jesus Christ. ... But now our faith is being challenged by the federal government.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
9/13/2012 1:34:27 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Church planters offer advice to students

September 12 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Church planting requires humility and a willingness to serve and learn.
 
These are things Tony Merida, pastor for preaching and vision at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., listed during a panel discussion – The Seasons of Church Planting – Aug. 30 at the seminary.
 
“You’ll be tempted to drift into pragmatism when you get to the mission field,” Merida said. He advised nailing down answers to big questions like divorce/remarriage, alcohol use, gender issues, worship philosophy and church polity.
 
Merida was joined by Tyler Jones, lead pastor of Vintage21 Church in Raleigh; Elliot Grudem, executive pastor for ministry at Vintage21; and Ben Tugwell, lead pastor of Integrity Church in Greenville.
 
Mike Dodson, a Southeastern professor and associate director of North American Church Planting at Southeastern’s Center for Great Commission Studies, said “the awareness is rising” because attendance at each church planting event has increased.
 
This was the third event sponsored by the North American Church Planting Network and Send North America of the North American Mission Board.
 
The event drew 170 people. Garrett Ventry, an intern and student at The College at Southeastern, guided the panel through a series of questions related to church planting.
 
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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Church planting panelists share from their combined experience during “The Seasons of Church Planting” Aug. 30 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. From left: Garrett Ventry, church planting intern at Vintage21 Church in Raleigh; Elliot Grudem, executive pastor of Vintage21; Tony Merida, lead pastor of Imago Dei, Raleigh; Ben Tugwell, lead pastor of Integrity Church, Greenville; and Tyler Jones, lead pastor of Vintage21.


Ventry, who hails from Buffalo, N.Y., said he has learned about humility in his eight months as a church planting intern.
 
“Being with guys who love Jesus more than me, who love their wives more than me” has taught him about practically caring for people, he said.
 
The panelists shared that establishing new congregations is not easy. “Do you at the end of the day have joy” in church planting? Grudem, one of the panelists, asked the participants.
 
But planters often face the same temptations as other church leaders.
 
Having worked with church planters through Acts 29 Network, he said to watch out for three tempting areas: money, sex and power.
 
“Pursue humility,” Grudem said. “Be content with what you have. It’s not like you are going to make millions.”
 
Parachuting vs. networking
When starting a church, there are options.
 
Tugwell, another one of the panelists, called his approach in Greenville “parachuting.” He said submitting to the authority of a local church would have been helpful to him in the very early stages. Instead he wasn’t part of a sending church.
 
He parachuted into Greenville not having contacts, a core group or financial support.
 
“Don’t do it,” he strongly advised to anyone even considering it. “It took a year and a half to develop a solid core.”
 
Several years later, his church is planting two more churches.
 
Jones added that the healthiest model is to be part of a church planting church. Develop a core group of about 50 people and go with them.
 
Merida said the number of people is not important as long as you have the right leaders and system in place.
 
Being part of a church planting church is “kind of the whole New Testament,” Jones said.
 
As a church planter, Grudem said a planter needs to “be a bit of an opportunist,” being open to what is available and remaining Kingdom minded.
 
Local church
All of the panelists agreed that future church planters in the crowd should already be involved in a local church that is planting churches.
 
Jones said investing and teaching at the local church level shows potential partners that you have the gifts needed and the desire to serve.
 
Merida agreed, advising church planters to know their people and loving the church.
 
Merida said to question the “CALL” of a planter: Confirmation, Aspiration, Leadership abilities and Lifestyle or character qualifications.
 
Jones said gaining theological knowledge may not bring greater adoration for Christ. Pouring into the lives of members and the community can take its toll if a leader isn’t devoting time to a personal prayer and quiet time with God.
 
“You will fail as a church planter [if your] adoration for Jesus is less than it ought to be,” Jones said.
 
Where’s the money?
Raising support for church planting can be tough. The panelists agree that networking with other church planting churches is key to getting started.
 
“Cast the net wide and pray for God’s supply,” Merida advised, while Grudem called the support letter a “cowardly” way to raise money. Those letters are fine for high school students trying to fund a mission trip to Mexico, he said, but aspiring church planters will need to get over their fear of talking about money.
 
“If married, you’re called to support your family,” Grudem said, encouraging the men to think of that when considering planting churches.
 
Potential planters need to question their call if they are unable to raise the needed funds, he said.
 
Other considerations include affirmations from respected church leaders, not just from wives and mothers, he said.
 
Core group
Merida was very selective when first beginning Imago Dei. Eight people moved from Mississippi where he was leading a church. They began meeting in his home in Wake Forest.
 
“We wanted to be really protective of that core team,” he said. “We really poured into them about two to three months before we invited other people. … Invest in the core team early on and build a healthy infrastructure.”
 
Merida’s church just celebrated its first anniversary.
 
“It’s been God’s timing,” he said.
 
Upcoming event
Another church planting event – Unite 2012: Planting in Dry Ground – is planned Oct. 10-11 at Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh. Visit nacpf.org.
9/12/2012 2:49:55 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



NAMB’s Larry Wynn joining Georgia Baptists

September 12 2012 by Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Larry Wynn, who has served as vice president of evangelism at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) since early 2011, announced Tuesday (Sept. 11) he is leaving NAMB to become vice president of revitalization for the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC).
 
“I whole-heartedly believe in the direction in which NAMB is headed under [NAMB president] Kevin [Ezell’s] leadership,” Wynn told NAMB trustees in a letter. “At the same time, I believe God is calling me to serve at this pivotal time in the life of the Georgia Baptist Convention.”
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Larry Wynn


Wynn made the news public at a meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s executive committee Tuesday morning. Wynn’s joining the Georgia convention is part of a larger reorganization of the convention – its most far-reaching structure change since 1997 – which was also rolled out during the meeting. The GBC will align itself around its 5 Smooth Stones strategy which was approved by messengers at its November annual meeting. The reorganization is effective immediately, said convention Executive Director J. Robert White.

“Larry Wynn is one of the finest men and pastors I have ever known,” Ezell said. “We will miss his leadership at NAMB, but more than that will miss the day-to-day fellowship and friendship. I completely understand Larry desiring to connect with churches in Georgia. It’s much easier to put a name on 4,000 churches than 50,000.”

Wynn has spent all of his ministry years in Georgia, having pastored Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Ga., for 32 years before taking the position at NAMB in early 2011. During that time, Wynn served in a number of leadership roles in Georgia Baptist life and in the broader Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). He is a past first vice president of the SBC and has twice served as president of the Georgia convention. More recently, he chaired a task force that studied the Georgia convention’s structural alignment and helped fashion its new “Five Smooth Stones” vision.

Wynn said he leaves NAMB in support of the direction in which Ezell is leading.

“I have thought for years that this is exactly the way NAMB should be going,” Wynn said. “I have personally seen Kevin’s genuine passion for impacting lostness in North America, and I have no doubt we are on the right track to do just that.”

Church revitalization, Wynn says, is key to the success of NAMB’s goal to see more church planting within the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I told Kevin that I plan to continue to be a champion for NAMB and the goals of church planting and evangelism throughout North America. I believe church revitalization will play a key role in that effort as we see the Holy Spirit re-focus and re-invigorate congregations that have become spiritually flat.”

The GBC’s “Five Smooth Stones” realignment is focused on Spiritual Awakening, Evangelism, Church Planting, stewardship and church revitalization. Wynn will begin his new role with the GBC October 1.

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Compiled by staff of the North American Mission Board.)
9/12/2012 2:43:31 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Panel asks: Can Christians vote for a Mormon?

September 12 2012 by Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Addressing an issue on the minds of many evangelical voters as a Mormon runs for president, a Baptist seminary panel said Tuesday that evangelicals must jettison – for the good of their faith – the idea that the White House occupant must be a “religious mascot” for Christianity.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted the panel discussion, less than two months before American voters will choose between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who is Mormon.
 
“I heard someone in recent days say, ‘I would never vote for anyone who is not an authentically professing evangelical Christian,’“ said Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary. “Well, if that’s the case, then as far as I can see, you have about three candidates in the last 100 years or so ... that you could possibly vote for: William Jennings Bryan, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.

“The question is not John 3:16 in terms of reading the regeneration of the person’s heart,” Moore said. “The question is Romans 13: Does this person have the kind of wisdom to bear the sword on behalf of God’s authority that He has granted to the state? And can I trust that person to protect society? That’s the fundamental question.”

American Christians too often, said seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., have seemingly assigned a “priestly role” to the White House, hoping the president will represent and promote the Christian faith. But that is a uniquely American idea, Mohler said, and unhealthy for Christianity.

“I had a pastor say to me, ‘You just can’t be faithful and vote for someone who represents such things or believes such things [as Mormons believe],’“ Mohler said. “And I said, ‘What if you’re a Christian in Utah? Do you just not vote? What if your decision is between two Mormon candidates?’

“Throughout most of Christian history, folks haven’t struggled with this question because they didn’t have the luxury of struggling with it. ... The separation of the priestly role from government is something that has to happen in the minds of American evangelicals,” Mohler said, warning against viewing government as an idol.

Moore agreed, saying U.S. Christians have been guilty of trying to Christianize American history.

“So many evangelicals want to go back and claim Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and John Adams as orthodox, evangelical Christians,” Moore said. “The problem with that [is that] Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were great men who did fantastic things for our country, but once you start claiming them as orthodox evangelical Christians, you’re not elevating those men, you’re downgrading the gospel into something that fits whatever they happen to hold. And you wind up with [modern-day] politicians who learn the language of evangelical faith in order to use it, in order to manipulate people into supporting them.”

The four-member panel said Americans on multiple occasions have elected candidates who did not hold to evangelical beliefs. Among them were Unitarian William Howard Taft and Catholic John F. Kennedy.

“We went through this back in the ’60s with John Kennedy,” said Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Seminary. “They thought, ‘Oh, if we elect a Catholic, then the Pope will just have a hotline and tell him exactly what to do.’”

The panel, though, said evangelicals still face tough questions about potentially electing a Mormon for president – mainly whether a Mormon president would boost the image of Mormonism around the world.

“How do we think of that in terms of world missions?” Mohler asked. “How do we think about this in terms of missions on Third Avenue in Louisville, Ky.?”

Greg Gilbert, pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., said it’s a “difficult question.” Mormonism clearly isn’t part of orthodox, historical Christianity, panelists said.

“It may not be a kind of atomic moment where the whole nation wakes up and thinks, ‘Oh, I like Mitt Romney’s tax policies; I’m going to take a look at the Mormon church,’” Gilbert said. “I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen.”

Instead, Gilbert said, a Romney president would give Mormonism more “respectability.” In that scenario, Gilbert said, it would become “increasingly important” for Christians “to clarify” the differences between orthodox, historical Christianity and Mormonism.

Mohler said he hopes Christian voters will think with deep theological concern and receive guidance from their pastors to help them make sound decisions.

Said Gilbert, “This is an educational moment for evangelicals, and it could turn out to be a healthy thing for the church if they can learn to think more carefully about how to agree with a person’s policies while disagreeing with his theological beliefs.”

Moore said the Bible includes multiple stories of how God uses non-believers for His good. Among them is Persian King Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Israel following their captivity.

The question Christians should ask, Moore said, is: “Between these two people – President Obama and Gov. Romney – who is going to do the best for the common good and in protecting the United States of America and all the other questions that we’ve got to keep in mind.”

Moore added, “We are going to have to give up – on both sides – the idea of president as religious mascot.”

An Obama-Romney campaign, Moore said, is a “good thing for American evangelicals.”

“It enables us to simultaneously honor the king,” he said, alluding to 1 Peter 2:17, “and to boldly proclaim the gospel – in a way that we see happening all through the Book of Acts. We are able to love and pray for President Obama while we disagree with him on life and religious liberty and marriage and some really important things. ...

“And if a President Romney is elected, we’re the people who ought to be able to say, ‘We respect and honor this man as president. We’re able to ... serve with this man as president, and we’re the people who are willing to – if we’re invited into the Oval Office – say, ‘President Romney, here’s where we agree with you; here’s what we like about what you’re doing. And we sincerely want to plead with you to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Closing out the discussion, Mohler reminded attendees: “Above all we have a gospel responsibility, that we are first and foremost citizens of the heavenly Kingdom and our concern is that others will become a part of the Kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel.”

Audio of the panel discussion is available here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press, with reporting by Craig Sanders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
9/12/2012 2:40:29 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Upcoming election stirs Baptists to pray

September 11 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

With the upcoming presidential election merely weeks away, many North Carolina Baptists – and fellow evangelicals across the country – seem to be focusing more attention on politics. But many Christians are also falling on their knees, organizing prayer efforts, seeking a spiritual awakening and hope for future generations.
 
While the United States appears more divided than ever on politics, religion and moral issues, many on all sides contend the stakes this fall couldn’t be higher.
 
“I do believe that this election in many ways will set the tone for religious freedom truly for the rest of my lifetime,” said Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte  and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
 
In preparation for ministry opportunities throughout Charlotte during the week of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), First Baptist Church joined forces in prayer for 40 days with other congregations across the Metrolina Baptist Association.
 
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Charlotte714 photo


“One of the things we have tried to do … probably more important than anything else we’ve done in terms of planning and scheduling has been to prepare through prayer.”
 
On Sept. 2 about 9,000 people – representing more than 100 churches – gathered at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Charlotte for a non-partisan, city-wide worship event called Charlotte714. Those in attendance prayed, worshipped and were challenged by a variety of speakers about the nation’s need for revival and spiritual awakening. Many who participated also signed a Declaration of National Spiritual Emergency.
 
The troubles of the nation go far beyond politics, said Byron Paulus, executive director of Life Action Ministries, who spoke at Charlotte714.
 
Life Action Ministries helped promote Charlotte714 and is leading a call to prayer known as OneCry. To learn more go to onecry.org.
 
“Our only hope is revival,” contended Paulus. “There is no hope apart from revival, and there is no hope like revival.”
 
“We know we are not in a political emergency. That is not the issue,” Paulus said. “We know we are not in an economic emergency. That is not the issue. We are not in an educational emergency. Our emergency isn’t even in morality. The answer is not in the White House. It is in the church house.”
 
N.C. Baptist leaders are promoting spiritual awakening through a “Pray for 30 Days” challenge. During the month of October, leading up to the state’s annual meeting Nov. 12-13 in Greensboro, convention leaders will be encouraging churches to pray for 30 days for spiritual awakening.
 
Congregations that have not already received a prayer toolkit, can request additional copies of the Awaken Prayer Guide or the Awaken Prayer Bookmark by emailing awaken@ncbaptist.org or go to ncannualmeeting.org. People also can receive prayer prompts through text messaging by texting the word “Awaken” to 313131.
 
In addition, Southern Baptists across the country will have an opportunity to participate in the 40/40 Prayer Vigil, promoted by the North American Mission Board and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). From Sept. 26 to Nov. 4, they encourage churches and evangelicals across the country to commit to pray 40 days up to the election and during the 40 hours around election day. The 40/40 prayer guide will lead those who participate in praying for personal spiritual revival, their church, the nation and its leaders.
 
“This election year, 2012, more Americans than usual feel that the country is at a crossroads,” contended Richard Land, ERLC’s president, in a column published by Baptist Press. Prayer is crucial, Land said. “I can imagine no better way to be prepared to exercise our God-given freedom to vote for the person God would have serve as our congressman, senator, governor or president.”
 
To learn more about how you and your church can become involved go to 4040prayer.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – A column by Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, contributed to this story.)
9/11/2012 2:57:49 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments



‘Last Ounce of Courage’: Q&A with director

September 11 2012 by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column

The movie, “Last Ounce of Courage,” seeks to awaken Americans in a time of apathy and opens this weekend (Sept. 14) in more than 1,200 theaters nationwide. The movie has been released to coincide with Patriot’s Day and the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. It’s a reminder that freedom is a verb – something we must actively stand for and preserve. And it’s certainly not free.
 
The movie is about Mayor Bob Revere, who is grieving the loss of his son. As he works through the pain of losing his son, Revere finds his greatest battle is right at his own front door. A decorated war hero, Revere realizes the freedoms he fought for, and that his son died for, are eroding. From the removal of all public expressions of Christmas to the shock of his grandson’s Bible being confiscated at school, Bob is driven to action and ends up inspiring an entire town.
 
Kevin McAfee is producer and director of “Last Ounce of Courage” and the founder of Veritas Entertainment. McAfee was the executive producer of “End of the Spear” and “Beyond the Gates of Splendor,” which brought missions to the big screen. McAfee shared in an interview about the purpose and vision behind the film.
 
Q: What inspired the making of this film?
 
A: The movie began with missionaries Richard and Gina Headricks in Laurel, Miss., who had a dream to put Christ back in Christmas. These bikers were visionary people who’d never made a movie. They connected with Darrel Campbell and wrote a screenplay that touches the heart of America and where our nation is today.
 
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Part of a promotional piece from Veritas Entertainment shows the stand some believers took to keep Christ in Christmas. Director Kevin McAfee hopes “Last Ounce of Courage” inspires poeple to stand for freedom.


Q: What are you hoping viewers will take away from this movie?
 
A: That one voice and taking a stand can make a difference. It begins with one man, one child, one school, one town who will stand up for the freedoms that are being taken away from us one by one. Hopefully, this movie will inspire people of all ages to stand for freedom and for God and country.
 
Q: Considering all that’s going on in America right now and the upcoming presidential election, is this movie calling people to political action?
 
A: Absolutely. It’s calling them to go to standusa.com and get involved. It’s calling them to believe in what our nation was founded upon. We have to stand up for what we believe in and know we can make a difference. Freedom for religion that allows all faiths to worship, or even the right to not worship, is germane to the dreams of our founding fathers and our Christian heritage. This nation was founded upon God and the Bible, and even President Washington said that without these two areas in our lives, we cannot govern.
 
Q: What prompted Chuck Norris to get involved in this film?
 
A: The lead actor Marshall Teague and Chuck Norris have been close friends for many years. Mr. Norris saw the film and wept. He wanted to “do something” so for the first time in his career, he’s promoting a movie that he’s not even in. This is huge.
 
Q: You’ve got some well-known, award-winning actors in this film. Are most of them Christians, freedom fighters, or both?
 
A: A combination of all. Marshall Teague, a navy hero and patriot, was a police officer. He took acting in order to catch the bad guys. He is a hero of our nation and a patriot. Jennifer O’Neill believes in the message of this movie and wants to promote it. Hunter Gomez and Jenna Boyd are strong people of faith. Rusty Joiner is involved in a Bible study in LA. He and his wife attend the same church Ronald Reagan attended.
 
Q: What is the website for the film so people can find a theater near them?
 
A: To learn more they can go to www.lastouncethemovie.com. To find out more about Veritas [Entertainment] and why we are standing for truth, go to www.veritasmovies.com.
 
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
 
A: If this was the last movie I ever had the opportunity to direct and produce, I believe God would have granted me a great gift. In my heart, there is nothing more precious than the freedoms we have, and I believe filmmakers need to take a stand. For years, I’ve been a Christian filmmaker. Now, I’m changing to being a patriot who believes in God and country. Because of my faith, I am choosing to make films that lift up the name of Jesus and stand for truth. 
 
I’ve made a commitment to make movies that are PG or G rated because the family has been largely ignored. It’s time to take a stand, and I pray we can impact culture with the visual language of film for family, faith and freedom.
 
As our film company continues to promote truth, we pray a community will come and join us in our crusade. We are only beginning. To view the movie trailer and pass it on to others go to http://lastouncethemovie.com/trailer.php.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ginny Dent Brant is a writer and speaker. Her book about her spiritual journey with her father, Harry S. Dent Sr., Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was released in 2010. She is a former trustee of the International Mission Board. She and her husband, Alton, live in Clemson/Seneca, S.C. More info at www.ginnybrant.com.)
9/11/2012 2:49:58 PM by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Rudy Gray named S.C. Baptist Courier editor

September 11 2012 by Butch Blume, Baptist Courier

GREENVILLE, S.C. (BP) – James Rudy Gray, a pastor, writer and Christian counselor with roots in journalism, has been named the 11th editor and president of the Baptist Courier, the official newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC).

Gray, 59, was elected unanimously by members of the Courier’s board of trustees at their fall meeting in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 7.

He will succeed Don Kirkland, 68, who announced in March that he will retire at the end of 2012, capping a 38-year career with South Carolina Baptists’ denominational newspaper. Kirkland has served as editor and president since March 1996.

Randy Harling, pastor of First Baptist Church of Simpsonville, S.C., and chairman of the Courier’s board of trustees, called Gray a “visionary leader” who will take the reins of the Courier at a time when traditional support structures for denominational entities are undergoing fundamental change.

In November 2011, South Carolina Baptists adopted a Great Commission Resurgence report that channels more funds to international missions and church planting and revitalization while significantly decreasing funding to the SCBC’s seven in-state institutions, including the Courier.

Harling said Gray, a former state convention president, is “well-known among pastors and leaders ... and is knowledgeable about the Courier,” and that his leadership ability will be “what’s required in the future” as the Courier seeks to redefine its role in serving the churches of the convention.

“We just kept being drawn back to him,” Harling said, speaking for the five-member search committee he headed. “The spiritual aspect was evident from the beginning,” he said, and the search committee felt Gray was “a natural fit” for the Courier.

Gray, who has served as pastor of Utica Baptist Church in Seneca since November 1994, said he is “humbled and grateful for the call of God to serve the Baptists of South Carolina through The Baptist Courier.”

“It is my prayer that the Courier can be a blessing to more and more of our Baptist family,” he said. The Courier has a “solid past” with “many loyal and faithful readers,” he said, but noted that journalism has “changed drastically.”

“The Courier can be a great resource for the church and for individual Baptists in the future,” he said. “Our online presence can become more diversified and powerful. We will not neglect the print edition, but will try to create an enhanced Courier that encompasses additional delivery systems under the banner of Christian journalism.”
09-11-12courier175.jpg

James Rudy Gray has been named the 11th editor and president of the Baptist Courier.


While a student at Anderson University, Gray was sports editor for the yearbook and the campus newspaper and was later editor for the paper. He also worked as a sports writer for the Anderson Independent, a daily general-circulation newspaper, while a student at Anderson and later at the University of South Carolina.

“My career path was set in journalism until God answered a prayer,” Gray said, “and I changed my major from journalism to Bible and transferred to Southern Wesleyan.”

But Gray said he never lost his “thirst” for journalism throughout his ministry. At his ordination service, the director of missions for Saluda Association, J.C. Rice, advised him never to stop writing, he said.

When he was a student at Anderson, Gray became friends with Don Kirkland, who was working in the college’s communications office before he would later accept a job at the Courier.

“We have maintained that friendship over all these years,” Gray said. “Near my graduation, Don gave me a book, ‘Memoirs,’ by Arthur Krock. I have kept that book – not because of the content, but because of the inscription he wrote in the front: ‘To my friend in the 4th estate: Before you write ‘30’ [the journalist’s notation signaling the conclusion of a story] to your life, I hope that you will find fulfillment and that you will be able to inscribe ‘no regrets’ at the end. Your friendship will always be one of my proudest possessions.’

“Now I have the privilege to succeed my friend as editor of the Courier. This is where I would like to complete my ministry,” Gray said. “It is ironic that I started out in journalism, and I could be finishing there.”

Kirkland said his successor “knows the South Carolina Baptist Convention from the inside out” and that the Courier and the SCBC will benefit from his “involvement in the life of the denomination ever since he graduated from college.”

“His proven service as a pastor and convention leader and solid background as a journalist make him an excellent choice for the editorship of the Courier,” Kirkland said.

Gray said he looks forward to traveling the state as editor and that he welcomes invitations to preach. “I want to assure pastors that if I’m invited to preach, I will preach the Word, not the Courier,” he said, adding it is his desire to “connect more churches to the ministry of the Courier through our common acceptance of God’s infallible Word and our commitment to all aspects of the Great Commission.”

Gray described his ministry as a pastor, preacher, counselor and writer as “full,” and said he sees his new responsibility as Courier editor as “a calling from God.”

“I want to be faithful to Him in that calling,” he said. “There are new and exciting things that will be developing at the Courier. Building from the past toward the future in a way that glorifies God and helps His people will be a major theme,” he said.

“I really want the Courier to be the best that it can be,” he added. “With the support of South Carolina Baptists, we can make that a reality.”

Gray asked that South Carolina Baptists pray for him and his wife, Anne.

In addition to Anderson University, Gray is a graduate of Southern Wesleyan University and Luther Rice Seminary, where he earned master of theology and doctor of ministry degrees. He is also a graduate of Liberty University with a master of arts in counseling and has taken post-graduate courses at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He previously served as pastor of Roebuck Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Central, and Unity Baptist Church in Starr – all in South Carolina.

He was elected president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in 2009 and is a past board member and chairman for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He served two five-year terms on the Courier’s board of trustees in the 1990s and was serving on the board at the time of his election as editor.

He is an adjunct professor at Anderson University, teaching in the school of Christian studies, and is a past trustee of the university.

Gray is a 23-year member of the National Board for Certified Counselors and is certified by the International Board of Christian Counselors. He serves as a counseling referral resource for Focus on the Family and has led marriage enrichment seminars at churches and other locations.

He is the author of four books: “Will the Real Pastor Please Stand Up,” “Worry: The Silent Killer,” “Jude: The Alarm Has Sounded,” and “Marriage That Works Is Work” and has been a columnist for The Baptist Courier and for Disciple magazine (formerly Pulpit Helps magazine) since 2000.

Gray is married to Anne Black Gray, who recently retired after teaching high-school algebra since 1996. The couple has three married daughters and one grandchild.

Trustees serving on the search committee, in addition to Harling, were: Brad Bardin, vice chairman and pastor of First Baptist Church, Williamston; Seth Buckley, executive committee member and minister to students at First Baptist Church, Spartanburg; Virginia Johnston, secretary and member of First Baptist Church, North Charleston; and Fred Stone, executive committee member and pastor of First Baptist Church, Pickens.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Butch Blume is managing editor of the Baptist Courier.)
9/11/2012 2:37:10 PM by Butch Blume, Baptist Courier | with 0 comments



Pakistani Christian girl granted bail

September 11 2012 by Baptist Press

LAHORE, Pakistan – A Pakistani court has granted bail to a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, but her lawyer says he will not seek her release until her security can be guaranteed.

The Telegraph reported that Judge Muhammad Azam Khan set bail of 1 million rupees (about $10,000) for Rimsha Masih, who has been imprisoned for three weeks on charges of desecrating the Quran. While prosecuting attorneys argued that blasphemy suspects are not entitled to bail, Masih’s defense said she was a minor and should be set free.

But in a development that illustrates the mortal danger surrounding blasphemy accusations, one of Masih’s lawyers says he will allow her to remain in prison until arrangements can be made for her safety.

“She is at grave risk in the sense that the people who managed this whole drama and fabricated the evidence against her most certainly wish her harm,” Raja Ikram, one of Masih’s lead defense lawyers, told the Guardian, claiming Masih will need bodyguards and an armored vehicle to protect her.

Masih’s case has drawn international scrutiny since she was arrested three weeks ago for allegedly desecrating the Quran, a crime that carries a life sentence in Pakistan. A young man in Masih’s neighborhood claimed he saw her carrying a trash bag with burnt pages of the Quran, and police arrested the girl after an irate mob demanded action and threatened to burn her alive.

But since then, the Muslim imam in Masih’s neighborhood has been arrested for planting evidence against her. That coupled with her age and mental state (an official medical review determined she is roughly 14 and has mental difficulties) has brought even conservative Muslim clerics to her defense.

Paul Bhatti, who heads Pakistan’s Ministry of National Harmony, hailed the support of Muslim leaders in Masih’s case.

“I am very hopeful for that and very happy that justice has prevailed,” he told the Washington Post, also saying that arrangements had been made to move Masih to a secret location upon her release.

The head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan also praised the bail decision, telling the Associated Press that Masih should never have been arrested.

“All charges against her should be dropped, and Pakistan’s criminal justice system should instead concentrate on holding her accuser accountable for inciting violence against the child and members of the local Christian community,” Ali Dayan Hasan said.

According to the Guardian, Christians in Masih’s neighborhood are on edge, subjected to derogatory treatment and forced to close their churches.

“Many people are leaving,” Naeem Masih, a 20 year-old painter, told the Guardian. “Rimsha was just the tip of acrimony that has been developing for a long time. The situation may be normal for the time being but it will reoccur.”

The girl’s parents are in protective custody, likely to protect them from murderous vigilantes, who in the past have killed blasphemy suspects and those defending them. In a statement quoted by the advocacy group Avaaz, Masih’s father lamented the violence and intimidation surrounding his daughter’s case.

“We are a poor Christian family, witnessing mob fury over my daughter’s case,” he said. “And many other families have faced similar intimidation forcing them to either flee or live in fear.”

Masih’s case has raised calls to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which critics say are often used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal vendettas. But no action on the laws is expected, and opposing them can be deadly.

Last year, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province and a critic of the blasphemy laws, was gunned down by his own bodyguard, who was praised by many Pakistanis for defending Islam. Shahbaz Bhatti, who at the time was Pakistan’s minority affairs minister and is the brother of Paul Bhatti, was also assassinated by Islamic extremists after calling for reform of the laws.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by John Evans, a writer in Houston.)

Related stories
Pakistani Christian girl’s arrest leads to probe
Christian Pakistani girl, 11, remains jailed
9/11/2012 2:24:06 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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