September 2012

Deadline to submit resolutions Sept. 10

September 6 2012 by BSC

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Memorials and Resolutions Committee is now receiving resolutions for consideration.

North Carolina Baptists have until Sept. 10 to submit resolutions.

Resolutions approved by the Committee will be presented to messengers attending the annual meeting Nov. 12-13 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Special Events Center.

Those resolutions approved by the Committee will be printed in the Biblical Recorder prior to the annual meeting, and will also appear on the annual meeting website (ncannualmeeting.org) and at BRnow.org.
 
Resolutions should be sent to: Committee on Resolutions, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, 205 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511.
 
Resolutions may also be emailed to njohnson@ncbaptist.org.
9/6/2012 2:24:52 PM by BSC | with 0 comments



World Changers, PowerPlant expand mission

September 6 2012 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LifeWay Christian Resources has announced a change for World Changers and PowerPlant student ministries which will allow a greater impact on the 64 cities and towns in 24 states where they will minister next year.

“We’re scheduling about the same number of projects next year as this year, but in fewer locations so we can have a longer and greater impact in many of the cities and towns,” said Ben Trueblood, LifeWay’s director of student ministries. “By staying longer, we can have more opportunities to change a community, and our students’ lives will change as well.”

Trueblood said that although a large majority of the locations are still in small and medium-size communities, LifeWay is following the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) lead by focusing more resources on cities NAMB has identified as Send North America cities.
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Photo by Daniel Stancil

World Changers is a short-term student missions to help them explore God’s missions call on their lives while providing tangible ministry as well as opportunities to share the gospel.


“Small and medium-sized cities like Bonne Terre, Mo., population 7,000, Neptune, N.J., with 5,000 residents, and even North Pole, Alaska, with a population of 2,200, are still very much a part of our plan,” Trueblood said. “But the world is coming to our cities, and we must have a greater impact on the great metropolitan areas of the U.S.”

Trueblood said many of the World Changers and nearly all of the PowerPlant projects next year will be in NAMB’s Send North America cities including New York City, Indianapolis, Chicago and San Francisco.

“Metropolitan areas have tremendous needs and the types of service to meet those needs are endless,” said John Bailey, manager of World Changers and PowerPlant. “We are looking to help churches reach more of their community’s needs.

“Our hope through this city missions vision is that students will walk away from a World Changers experience with a heart for the culture of that city or town realizing they can truly touch the world from right here in their own country,” Bailey said.

LifeWay also announced World Changers will no longer use minors to repair residential roofs. For years, World Changers has allowed high school students to replace weather-beaten shingles and rotted sub-roofing. LifeWay’s decision to keep students off roofs is to “ensure the safest worksite possible and not overextend the risk to our students,” Trueblood said. “We want to make sure we are providing meaningful mission opportunities for our students in the safest possible environment.”

Bailey said other home repair and construction projects have always made up roughly two-thirds of World Changers projects and will remain the major focus.

“We will continue our mission of helping eliminate substandard housing by replacing doors and windows, rebuilding porches, adding siding and wheelchair ramps where needed, painting and a host of other necessary repairs,” Bailey said.
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Photo by Susan Whitley

A World Changers paint crew puts the finishing touches on a home in Knoxville, Tenn. World Changers provides students and adults with opportunities to meet physical and spiritual needs by repairing substandard housing for low-income homeowners.


“God is still calling students to the frontlines of missions,” Bailey added. “He can use students in a number of ways. What makes missions exciting is not what students do. Missions is exciting when God begins to work through the lives of students.”

Last year LifeWay partnered with NAMB to bring World Changers and PowerPlant under the LifeWay student ministry family. Summer 2012 was the first summer the two ministries operated under LifeWay.

World Changers provides students and adults with opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs by repairing substandard housing for low-income homeowners. Volunteers donate a week of their summer working in conjunction with cities, churches and community agencies to provide renovations at no charge.

PowerPlant participants learn church planting principles and evangelism skills, then have a chance to engage personally through assigned ministry team activities.

“We’ve seen God use students to transform the lives of residents and neighbors in cities and towns across North America,” Bailey said. “Yes, we’ve seen houses that look radically different at the end of a World Changers project. But construction isn’t the end goal; it is merely the ministry vehicle to allow the power of the gospel to radically change lives.”

Registration for 2013 World Changers and PowerPlant projects is already underway. The World Changers website is world-changers.net; PowerPlant’s is power-plant.net.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is editorial manager for LifeWay Christian Resources’ corporate communications team.)
9/6/2012 2:11:01 PM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cleric arrested in Pakistani Christian girl case

September 6 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Pakistani police have arrested a Muslim cleric for allegedly planting evidence against Rimsha Masih, a mentally handicapped Christian girl accused of committing blasphemy by desecrating texts from the Quran.

In an ironic twist to the case, Khalid Chisti, the cleric in Masih’s neighborhood, will himself be charged with blasphemy for allegedly tearing out pages of a Quran in an effort to frame Masih, according to media reports.

Several witnesses – including Chisti’s own deputy – have come forward claiming that after a neighbor caught Masih carrying a bag of burnt trash, Chisti added pages from the Quran hoping to stir up animosity against Christians and drive them out of the neighborhood.

“I asked him what he was doing and he said this is the evidence against them and this is how we can get them out from this area,” Chisti’s deputy, Mohammad Zubair, told a Pakistani television station after the cleric’s Sept. 1 arrest, according to the Guardian.

Police officer Munir Jafferi confirmed to the Associated Press that Chisti will indeed be charged with blasphemy for allegedly desecrating the Quran, a crime that could land him in prison for life if convicted. Jafferi said police also may bring other charges against Chisti, such as planting evidence and making false allegations.

The case has drawn widespread attention since police arrested Masih for blasphemy over two weeks ago after an angry mob demanded action. Her parents are in protective custody, and her arrest has sparked new criticism of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which critics say can be used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas.

The particulars of Masih’s case – her age, mental difficulties and now the arrest of Chisti for framing her – have brought her support from the unlikeliest of corners in Pakistan.

The Guardian reported that Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, chairman of the All Pakistan Ulema Council, an organization of Islamic clerics, lent his support to Masih, calling her a “daughter of the nation.”

Ashrafi, who previously was associated with a council that includes members of outlawed militant groups, harshly criticized Chisti in a news conference at an Islamabad hotel, alleging Chisti was part of a plot to drive Christians out of the neighborhood so an Islamic school could be built on their property.

Ashrafi said he decided to speak out after reading reports that Masih has Down syndrome, a mental condition his 15-year-old son also has.

“Our heads are bowed with shame for what Chishti did,” the Guardian reported him saying.

(Ashrafi’s name also has appeared as Allama Tahir Ashrafi in media reports.)

Masih’s attorney, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, said the young girl will remain behind bars at least until Friday, after her Monday bail hearing was postponed due to a lawyers’ strike.

But even if she does make bail, her life likely will be in jeopardy. Vigilantes have murdered people accused of blasphemy, and two prominent Pakistani politicians were assassinated for simply criticizing the country’s blasphemy laws.

One of them was Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minorities minister, who was gunned down after defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. His brother, Paul Bhatti, who heads the Ministry of National Harmony and is the country’s only Christian cabinet member, told the Daily Telegraph he hopes Masih will be freed.

“Her general condition is OK but as you can imagine she is a young girl locked away from her family, in a strange situation, having some learning difficulties so she is very disturbed and is often asking for her mother and to go home,” Bhatti said.

Bhatti is calling for an interfaith commission to vet blasphemy charges before they reach the courts, a small step that could still be dangerous given his brother’s fate.

“If you don’t come to take some bold steps then things will never change, the minorities will never be protected,” Bhatti told the Telegraph. “I am taking safety measures but I know the risk is there.”

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

Related stories
Christian Pakistani girl, 11, remains jailed
Pakistani Christian girl’s arrest leads to probe
9/6/2012 2:01:20 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC urges court to review gay marriage case

September 6 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission  (ERLC) and other religious groups have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court’s ruling that a state cannot define marriage as between a man and a woman.
 
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Aug. 31, the ERLC joined three other religious entities in urging the high court to rule on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ invalidation of Proposition 8, a 2008 amendment approved by California voters that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The National Association of Evangelicals filed the brief. In addition to the ERLC, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also signed onto the brief.

The brief marks another development in the national debate over same-sex marriage, an issue that now awaits Supreme Court consideration in two cases and a possible watershed decision.

The Prop 8 case, which was appealed to the high court by its proponents in July, could decide the constitutionality of laws in 44 states that do not recognize gay marriage. Thirty states have constitutional amendments and 14 states have laws that define marriage in the traditional sense.

Another case appealed to the justices in June could determine if the federal government may define marriage as only between a man and a woman, as it did in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The Supreme Court will determine, possibly this fall, whether it will review lower court decisions that went against advocates of traditional marriage in both cases.

“We’re calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit and restore government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ in the state of California and across the land,” ERLC President Richard Land said. “Californians fully debated the issue and voted to maintain the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, as has every state that has had the opportunity to express its convictions through the ballot box.”

In the new brief, the ERLC and the other groups say the Ninth Circuit’s February opinion striking down Prop 8 “misconstrues and misapplies” a 1996 Supreme Court ruling. That decision, Romer v. Evans, overturned a Colorado amendment banning state actions to grant rights to homosexuals. In a 2-1 decision, a Ninth Circuit panel depended on Romer in saying Prop 8 implies “animosity” toward homosexuals even more strongly than did the Colorado amendment.

Prop 8 “could hardly be more different” than the Colorado amendment, the brief by the NAE, ERLC and others says. While the Supreme Court criticized the Colorado measure for its “sheer breadth,” the California Supreme Court found Prop 8 “carves out a narrow and limited exception” to the “extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right[s],” according to the brief.

The Ninth Circuit ruling “turns Romer on its head, opening the door for federal courts to find ‘anti-gay animus’ in any affirmative effort by the people to legally preserve the traditional definition of marriage,” the brief says.

Their support for Prop 8 is based not on prejudice toward homosexuals but on support for the long-held definition of marriage that “follows from positive teachings about the great worth of traditional marriage, family, and childbearing,” the brief’s signers say.

“[W]e are in favor of traditional marriage – not against homosexuals,” according to the brief. “Only invidious stereotyping could reduce religious doctrines and practices cherished by millions of Americans to nothing more than irrational prejudice against gays and lesbians.”

The Ninth Circuit “has in substance declared religiously-informed views favoring same-sex marriage constitutionally permissible and religiously-informed views opposing it constitutionally forbidden,” the brief says.

The brief also urges the Supreme Court to grant review because the Ninth Circuit decision “has enormous national implications,” making the high court – and not the appeals court – the proper adjudicator in such a case.

Lawyers for Prop 8 opponents have asked the high court not to accept the appeal.

The Supreme Court’s new term begins Oct. 1, and the justices could determine before or after that date whether they will review the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in the case, which is Hollingsworth v. Perry. They could make a decision about reviewing the other same-sex marriage case in the same time frame.

In that case, lawyers for the House of Representatives asked the high court to accept on appeal the First Circuit Court’s May decision rejecting the section of DOMA that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman.

The six states that have legalized gay marriage are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Same-sex marriage also is legal in the District of Columbia.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. With reporting by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
9/6/2012 1:45:36 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Jason Allen nominated to lead Midwestern

September 5 2012 by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, MO. – Jason K. Allen, vice president for institutional advancement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been selected by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) presidential search team members as their nominee for MBTS president.
 
Allen, 35, also is executive director of the Southern Seminary Foundation and has concurrently served as senior pastor of Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

The search committee, in response to a Baptist Press query, said it expects to bring Allen’s nomination to the board of trustees in October for an official vote. If elected, Allen will succeed R. Philip Roberts as Midwestern’s fifth president.

Midwestern trustee chairman Kevin Shrum said in a statement issued by the seminary, “After much prayer and considerable deliberation, the MBTS Search Team is unanimous in its recommendation, and we look forward to working with Dr. Allen and his wife, Karen, in the years to come. Though young in years, Jason is rich in experience that crosses a wide spectrum of ministry concerns such as local church ministry, denominational service, seminary administration, teaching and executive experience. All of these professional attributes, coupled with Jason’s contagious personality, will assist MBTS in preparing pastors for local church ministry and missionaries for global missions. Midwestern’s best days are yet ahead.” Shrum is pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.
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Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminarys presidential nominee Jason K. Allen is vice president for institutional advancement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Bill Bowyer, chairman of Midwestern’s presidential search team, said in the statement, “With the heart of a pastor, a mind of a scholar, and proven administrative and development skills, Jason Allen is well gifted to become the fifth President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The entire Presidential Search Team is thrilled about the prospect of Dr. Allen leading MBTS to the next level of training a generation of highly effective ministers, church planters and missionaries.” Bowyer is pastor of Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church in Raleigh.

Allen said he and his wife Karen “are deeply humbled and honored by the trust and confidence that the presidential search team has placed in us.”

“We have unmistakably sensed the leadership of the Holy Spirit throughout this process, and we are united with a resolve to give our hearts and lives to the serving and leading of Midwestern Seminary,” Allen said. “I look forward to the upcoming October meeting with the trustees where I can share my heart for Midwestern Seminary and my vision for where I pray the Lord will be leading us together into the future.”

As a member of Southern Seminary’s executive cabinet since January 2006, Allen has been vice president of institutional advancement since 2009 and was executive assistant to the president from 2006-09. He also has taught courses in personal spiritual disciplines, pastoral ministry and preaching at Southern since 2007.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. described Allen as “a man of tremendous ability, sterling character, and deep conviction, and he will lead Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary into a new era of faithfulness and vision.”

“He has been a crucial part of the Southern Seminary senior leadership team, and he is a gifted and visionary leader,” Mohler said. “I have known Jason for many years, and I know him inside and out. He has the experience and the heart to be a great president for Midwestern Seminary. I am thankful for Jason’s years at Southern Seminary, and I am very proud that our sister seminary has come to him as its new president.”

Allen, in other ministerial roles, has been senior pastor of Muldraugh Baptist Church in Muldraugh, Ky., and has worked in varying positions at churches in Alabama and Kentucky since 1998.

He holds Ph.D. and master of divinity degrees from Southern and an undergraduate degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala.

Allen and his wife have five children.

Two of Allen’s former pastors affirmed his nomination. Fred Wolfe, pastor of the Luke 4:18 Fellowship in Mobile, Ala., who was Allen’s pastor while growing up, said, “I remember his conversion as a wonderful experience in in his life. His life was truly changed. He is a strong leader who works well with others.” Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, said Allen is “the man of the hour for MBTS.... Jason Allen will provide great leadership, solid theology, and a clear Christ-centered perspective.”

Also affirming Allen’s nomination, Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board, said Allen “is imminently qualified to assume the presidency of one of our Southern Baptist seminaries. He has served with excellence and is a gracious and thorough leader of men.”

David S. Dockery, president of Union University, said, “Jason’s leadership gifts, commitment to theological education in service to the church, understanding of institutional processes, and heart for the things of God’s Kingdom are the kind of characteristics that certainly point to a bright, blessed, and hopeful future for Midwestern in the days ahead.”

Retired Texas appellate judge and layman Paul Pressler described Allen as “a visionary leader – kind, cooperative, and gracious in his leadership style. I know him as a scholar, a faithful witness to our Lord Jesus Christ, a Bible-believing exponent of God’s Word, a thorough gentleman, and an outstanding leader.”

Midwestern Seminary has been in search of a successor to Roberts since his resignation in February. Robin D. Hadaway, the seminary’s professor of missions, has served as interim president since Feb. 10.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
9/5/2012 3:36:07 PM by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



CP poised to hit budget for year

September 5 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee are $174,983,253.81, or 2.63 percent above the year-to-date budgeted goal, and 0.29 percent ahead of contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2011-12 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

As of Aug. 31, the $174,983,253.81 in gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled 102.63 percent of the $170,500,000 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $507,698.92 more than the $174,475,554.89 received through the end of August 2011.

“This has not been an easy year for so many of our churches and state conventions,” Page said. “The economy continues to be sluggish. Unemployment rates rose in 44 states last month. Unemployment and underemployment continue to affect many faithful church members. Yet, in spite of these adversities, Southern Baptists continue to give obediently to support the missions and ministries of their churches, associations, state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention. For this we are grateful.”

The convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.2 percent to international missions through International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board (NAMB), 22.16 percent to theological education, 3.2 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $186 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.

Page noted, “I am also grateful for the wisdom of our SBC Executive Committee in setting the challenging, yet realistic, CP allocation budget goal for this fiscal year. Under an older model of budgeting, and given the state of our falling economy, our SBC entities prepared their annual budgets based on unrealistic expectations of CP contributions. It now seems likely we will finish this fiscal year over our budgeted goal, for which we give thanks to God. I have said it before and I will say it again, we don’t want more CP money for the EC. For every dollar we go over our CP allocation budget goal, the percentage that comes to the EC falls to only 2.4 percent, freeing up additional CP funds to go directly to international missions.”

Designated giving of $186,370,303.66 for the same year-to-date period is 0.03 percent, or $52,302.77, above gifts of $186,318,000.89 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.

The Cooperative Program is a program of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the various ministries of its state convention and to the various missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.

Traditionally, state and regional conventions have acted as collecting entities for Cooperative Program contributions. They retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.

CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, to the denominational papers and are posted online at www.cpmissions.net/CPReports.

August’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $14,244,461.96. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $4,929,230.39.

The end-of-month total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee.
9/5/2012 3:29:01 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



In the Himalayas: Carrying the gospel to the ‘roof of the world’

September 5 2012 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

EAST ASIA – Aaron Juergens* had the mountains etched on his heart long before he reached the Himalayas.

“When I was 1 year old, my dad moved my family out to Colorado to be near the mountains where there was more stuff to do,” he said.

For the next 25 years, Juergens was cold, wet, dirty – and happy.
 
“We did pretty much everything outdoors you could do when I was a kid, and after high school I started climbing ‘fourteeners,’” he said of Colorado’s 54 peaks that soar over 14,000 feet. “I would climb three mountains a week. It got to the point where I was never home.”

He froze his fingers enough times that he never again forgot gloves. He earned a college degree in mapmaking. He learned weather patterns, orientation and knot tying.
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Photo by Kelvin Joseph

Eating fresh bread, International Mission Board journeyman Aaron Juergens (name changed), attempts a conversation with a homeowner in the Himalayas. Juergens is in East Asia, using his Colorado mountaineering background mapping villages hidden by the mountains.


It was ordained entertainment.

“God had that planned out,” Juergens said. “I understand exactly why I have been brought up and raised the way I am. God knew who I was when I was a little kid and He knew who I’d be today.”
 
Today, Juergens hikes the “roof of the world,” battling freezing temperatures, adapting inadequate maps and running from lightning storms.

His suffering is countered by the rewards of reaching people who have never heard the gospel.

“Not all people live in the cities where you can take a taxi to their front door,” Juergens said. “People live in places that we would never dream of living in but the fact is they live there. That’s where they’re put and they’re not coming to us. We have to go to them.”

He and his teammates do just that. It’s a tough job even for Juergens. People get sick from the altitude and the food. Travel is grueling. The spiritual warfare is intense.

John Costa*, Juergens’ team leader, said it takes five days to reach a village from the city.

“It’s a multiple-hour bus ride into the mountains and then you have to spend a couple of days in a base town acclimatizing before you can start to hike or mountain bike out,” Costa said.

The ridges to climb are between 10,000 and 15,000 feet, interspersed with valleys. Vicious dogs and giant oxen, yaks, are not uncommon. The air is thin and cold.

But the struggles are inherent in a trek to an unreached people who are, Costa said, simply hard to reach.

“There are a lot of people out there that if we want to actually walk through their front door and share the gospel with them, we’re going to have to use our feet or a bike,” he said. “And the obstacles aren’t just geographic – they’re physical, spiritual and political.”
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Photo by Kelvin Joseph

International Mission Board journeyman Aaron Juergens (name changed) points to a location he mapped by GPS while trekking in East Asia. He gathers information to guide local church leaders sharing the gospel. “We can equip them to go out and finish this task,” Juergens said. “If they don’t know where they are, they can’t go.”


Each unreached people group has its own challenges – language, hostile terrain, security or accessibility, Juergens said.

“If you don’t like the cold or you don’t like inclement weather or you’re afraid to get tired and sweat or if you’re afraid your makeup’s going to run or you don’t like how your hair looks when you’re tired, this isn’t the job for you,” Juergens said. “Climbing mountains isn’t easy. They don’t climb themselves.”

And mountains can be deadly.

Severe altitude sickness hit one team member on a ridge recently and it took 14 hours to evacuate him. Costa and Juergens took him down the mountain in a trip that first utilized villagers’ horses, then a borrowed car, and then a hired car to reach the hospital.

“We had to pull off a rescue,” Costa said. “We take great care not to let that happen. We push to the edge, but it’s a calculated risk. We are compelled to reach these people, so we want to put significant effort into it.”

The mountains can be unpredictable and certain issues can make the terrain difficult to access, including the denial of permits, civil unrest and travel restrictions. In some areas, foreigners aren’t allowed.

“We are seeing more questioning than ever before but the gospel is advancing more than ever,” Costa said, noting that the spiritual warfare is producing spiritual fruit. “The two go hand in hand.”

Progress is slow.

Costa has been working among the people of the Himalayas for more than 10 years and has seen three people accept Jesus Christ.

“We would love to see it go faster. We would love to say there have already been churches planted but we are only just starting to see tangible fruit,” he said, noting more than a decade of arduous hiking and biking, sickness and language learning.

“This for us is a long-haul effort to reach these people,” Costa said.

It’s something Grace Westrick*, a summer worker, said was difficult to grasp.

“You spend so much time and effort getting out to the people, and then once you get there, their hearts are so closed it’s crazy,” she said.

“But there’s something about being the ones to pray from a mountaintop in Jesus’ name over a valley that has long been the enemy’s territory,” she said. “If the one who has been defeated can be here, why not the Victor?”

Jesus is revealing Himself, Costa said.

“We’ve seen a spike in people coming to know Christ and I think that’s indicative of what God is doing,” he said.

A new believer requesting baptism will be the first to receive the rite in front of his family and community.

“We are facing more obstacles than we ever have before, but this is no surprise. This believer represents the very first person who wants to be baptized in this place. Satan’s not just going to give that up easily,” Costa said.

For Juergens, that’s no reason to quit, but encouragement to persevere, even in sickness and freezing temperatures atop a mountain.

“I’m up there, wearing six jackets and three gloves and five socks and I really just kind of want to sit in a bed,” he said. “But then you think about those people (who haven’t heard yet). If we turn around, who is going to come next? I mean, how many people have turned around? The world is getting smaller. The day is coming when everybody is going to have no excuse whatsoever for not hearing. There’s no excuse for turning back.

“We keep going.”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ava Thomas is an International Mission Board writer and editor in Europe.)

9/5/2012 3:13:54 PM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Alexis: Doing, supporting missions, two sides of same coin

September 4 2012 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Missions keeps Alexis Baptist Church a lively and outward-focused congregation, said Pastor Sandy M. Marks, and that means both going out to do missions and supporting missions financially.
 
Alexis members have long equated missions support with Cooperative Program support, he added.
Alexis is a 1,000-member church with attendance that averages 310 to 340. Visit the brick church building and you’ll think you’re in the country.
 
But most of the area farms have folded, and closed textile plants mean surrounding villages are no longer mill villages as they were a few dozen years ago. Marks said the Alexis community has become a bedroom community for Charlotte, whose downtown is about a 25-minute drive away.
 
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BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Pastor Sandy M. Marks believes that while some may consider Alexis Baptist Church as “just a blip on the radar,” the church has “the vision and, I think, the ability to influence the entire world.”


“A lot of people commute to Charlotte or they work with one of the Duke Power facilities, or they work as schoolteachers or nurses,” he said.
 
The onslaught of subdivisions and strip malls that mark Charlotte’s urban sprawl to the west, south and east was headed to this area before the economic recession slowed down development.
 
Marks has served the church for nine years, long enough to get a good grasp of the area and the church. He used to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church, Spring Lake.
 
The pastor acknowledges that, seen from a distance, “Alexis Baptist may be just a blip on the radar here in Gaston County,” but he insisted, “We have the vision and, I think, the ability to influence the entire world.”
 
Through its Cooperative Program (CP) support, Alexis has a part in supporting thousands of missionaries and many ministry efforts at home and overseas. The church routinely commits 14 percent of its budget for CP.
 
CP support is not new for the church. “The Cooperative Program has a long history here. So it’s an easy sell on the giving part,” he said.
 
Still, Marks incorporates CP support into his preaching and teaching; new members joining from a non-Southern Baptist background learn about CP from Marks, along with basic Christian doctrine and church life.
 
He stresses that giving to missions is not enough: “Taking part in missions is part of our discipleship teaching here. We try to make it an expectation with everybody. We want it to become a part of who we are, a part of our culture, a part of our DNA.”
 
“Giving to missions and doing missions are two sides of the same coin,” he often tells members.
 
Doing missions became a priority during 2011 after he challenged all the members to make a personal mission trip.
 
He hoped as many as 60 or 70 members might respond.
 
He was floored when 124 people signed up for mission trips during the year – more than a third of the church.
 
Last year Marks led a 14-member team to Ukraine, where they conducted Bible clubs for kids in villages, coordinated through the Baptist seminary.
 
A second trip is set for this summer. Other mission trips took place within North Carolina.
 
Leading members on mission trips is consistent with the Bible’s missions mandate, he said.
 
But doing what the Bible teaches on missions also brings other results, beyond the ministry accomplished on trips, he said.
 
First, he said missions has deepened the fellowship among members. 
 
“On all our trips we make sure we have devotions together, testimony times together. You just learn so much about [your] own people. We had people in the church say they have basically grown up with each other in the church, but they did not really get to know each other until they went on a mission trip together. It has been beneficial in that regard. It has deepened the fellowship of our congregation,” he said.
 
Because Alexis supports many ministries through the Cooperative Program, they have access to many long-term partnerships for hands-on missions work, Marks noted.
 
“The Cooperative Program provides a structure in which volunteers can personally take part. They don’t have to spend six months in preparation to set up a missions situation. They can basically take off a week and just go. We may go one time, but other Baptists have a history there and will continue to have work there when we leave,” he said.
 
Further, hands-on missions involvement is even more important for today’s young people, Marks believes.
 
“I think with the young people coming up in the church, the key to making the Cooperative Program a continuing priority is them experiencing missions themselves, because once they go and once they get plugged in, missions becomes a burden on their hearts, something they must do,” he explained.
 
“To give and not go would be insufficient, and to go and not give would be insufficient,” he said.
 
“That’s what we have experienced here at Alexis.
 
“People really become more dedicated to missions and give more to missions when they have been involved in it.”
 
Along with CP, Alexis also supports the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
 
Alexis also supports the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) and some members are heavily involved with the work of N.C. Baptist Men that NCMO supports.
 
“We are super excited about the work of N.C. Baptist Men,” Marks said.
 
Dollie Noa, the church’s director of children and education, serves on the board of N.C. Baptist Men and is involved with the Deep Impact missions outreach program at Charlotte this year. The church has also sent teams to serve at the Red Springs Mission Camp, operated by N.C. Baptist Men in Robeson County.
One retired Alexis member now works virtually full-time in the Alexis area, helping residents with construction and repair projects.
 
A second man in his 40s is moving toward a similar full-time missions role, but will include service with the disaster relief program of N.C. Baptist Men.
 
“These are examples of people in our church who have seen the necessity of missions and answered the call to missions,” Marks said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dollie Noa was featured in the Biblical Recorder May 26 for her involvement with North Carolina Baptist Men.)
9/4/2012 2:40:31 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Calvinism team listens, learns at first meeting

September 4 2012 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An advisory team on the issue of Calvinism met “to listen, to learn and to hope,” Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President Frank Page reported after the 16-member group met Aug. 29-30 in Nashville, Tenn.

The goal for the meeting, Page said in an Aug. 31 statement to Baptist Press, “was not to argue theology or to try to change each other’s minds. ... I was greatly heartened by the civil tone that marked the meeting.”

Page named the advisory team – “not an official committee” – in mid-August to develop, as he told Baptist Press at the time, “a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism.”

When he announced the advisory team, Page said at some point in the coming weeks and months he is hoping for “the crafting of a statement regarding the strategy on how we can work together.”

The full statement issued Aug. 31 by Page after the advisory team’s initial meeting follows:

“My goal for this initial meeting was not to argue theology or to try to change each other’s minds. It was to listen, to learn and to hope. My hope is that we as a diverse body of Baptists can agree to a genuine, joint acceptance of Great Commission responsibility.

“We must reclaim the principle of respect in our dealings with others. A common theme around the table is that we need to stop the exaggerations and caricatures of those whose perspective on the extent of the atonement is different from ours. We must avoid the twin ditches of anger and arrogance that threaten to pull us off the road of cooperation.

“I was greatly heartened by the civil tone that marked the meeting. As you can expect, the personalities and theological positions represented in the room are vastly different. But the meeting was permeated with a spirit of reverence for the Lord and a shared passion for the preaching of the gospel and witnessing to the lost in our own nation and around the world.

“I have no interest in changing the Baptist Faith and Message. It has been wisely crafted by previous generations of thoughtful, thinking Baptists to allow for a breadth of interpretations about God’s purpose of grace. It was written so that Calvinists and non-Calvinists can join hands and hearts for the common cause of world evangelization.

“This is not a new issue. Debates over the nature of election and the extent of the atonement predate us and will not be resolved by us. Our goal is not to solve this issue; it is to rediscover ways we can work together for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

“Again, this was a listening and learning session. I’ll be working to distill my thoughts from this initial meeting to begin framing a suggested model for discussion in our next meeting.”

The advisory team will meet next in early November at a yet-to-be-determined site.

The meeting was conducted on background rules involving no quoted statements by or attribution of comments to advisory team members. By consensus, the advisory team agreed that Page would issue a statement after the meeting.

In announcing the 16-member advisory team in mid-August, Page said additional names could be added to the “group of helpers helping Frank Page come up with some sort of strategy document.”

SBC President Fred Luter was not in attendance due to Hurricane Isaac’s impact in the New Orleans area. Luter is senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.

In addition to Luter, advisory team members in alphabetical order are Daniel Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Leo Endel, executive director, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention; Ken Fentress, senior pastor, Montrose Baptist Church, Rockville, Md.; Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala.; Eric Hankins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Oxford, Miss.; Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.; Tammi Ledbetter, homemaker and layperson, Inglewood Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas; Steve Lemke, provost and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.; Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Stephen Rummage, senior pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.; Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions, associate dean and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
9/4/2012 2:36:51 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Isaac damage at NOBTS under $300,000

September 4 2012 by

NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) escaped Hurricane Isaac’s winds and rain with damage estimated at less than $300,000. The slow-moving storm raged on throughout the day Aug. 29, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. But this storm was no Katrina, and NOBTS officials expect to have the campus fully operational by Tues., Sept. 4.

“The biggest operational issue for NOBTS was loss of power and the winds that delayed the beginning of repair work until yesterday [Aug. 30],” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said.

“That is why we had to delay reopening offices and classes on the New Orleans campus. Damage assessment is incomplete at this time, but initial estimate is less than $300,000.

“I am grateful for the providential mercy of God,” Kelley said. “If the Category 2 winds we expected had come and blown for as long as Isaac stayed, the aftermath would have been far more serious.”

But the storm never reached Category 2 status and the campus damage was not extensive, compared to the devastation at the campus caused by Katrina in 2005.
09-04-12nobts.jpg

NOBTS photo by Gary D. Myers

A work crew at New Orleans Seminary repairs minor roof damage on a student apartment building following Hurricane Isaac.


Several campus-based homes and apartment buildings experienced minor roof damage from Isaac, mainly shingle loss. Limbs were down throughout campus and multiple termite-damaged trees fell. Two faculty homes were hit by falling trees. One house will require significant repairs; the other received only minor damage. However, the campus did not experience major flooding like it did in Katrina. Some who rode out the storm on campus compared the rain accumulations during Isaac to those of an average summer rain storm.

Kelley emphasized that the campus is not ready for students and their families to return. Students will not be allowed to return to campus until the “All Clear” is posted on the seminary’s tropical weather update site http://www.nobts.edu/Publications/TropicalUpdates.html.

Isaac lingered near the city for the better part of two and a half days. New Orleans began feeling Isaac’s effects on Aug. 28 and the storm continued throughout the day Aug. 29. Heavy rain bands continued to pelt the city periodically throughout the morning on Aug. 30, with the storm clearing the New Orleans area around midday. Damage assessments and repair work began in earnest the afternoon of Aug. 30 and by 8 p.m. that evening, crews from Entergy had restored power to the front of campus. The back of campus still did not have power at press time.

Campus repair and clean-up work was in full swing throughout the day Aug. 31. A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBC DR) chainsaw crew from Alabama is scheduled to arrive Friday to assist with the clean-up.

“I am so grateful for SBC disaster relief. This Great Commission partnership of cooperation between local churches and their state conventions through the national network of the SBC is helpful beyond words and unmatched in the nation,” Kelley said. “It is transforming the image of Southern Baptists in every community where disaster strikes.”

Other SBC DR crews already are mobilized to help the hard-hit area in south Louisiana outside of the federal levee system. The parishes south and west of New Orleans face a long, difficult recovery process. North Carolina Baptist Men’s Facebook page, updated Aug. 31, did not have any teams responding to Isaac yet but leaders are monitoring the situation and seeing where volunteers are most needed. The site did say that more than 35 volunteers had helped clean 10 homes in Roanoke Rapids and volunteers are still needed for rebuild work in Pamlico County, where Hurricane Irene hit more than a year ago.

Kelley commended the U.S. Corps of Engineers for their work on the new levees and gates systems along Lake Pontchartrain. The $10 billion post-Katrina federal project was designed to stave off the type of storm surge that flooded the city and caused levee failures during Katrina.

“They held. Each piece did its job,” Kelley said. “As a result [of the gate system] the biggest issue was wind, not flooding. New Orleans is more protected against tropical weather than it has ever been. Thank you, America!”

Though the seminary’s main campus was offline due to the hurricane, classes continued throughout the NOBTS system. Students taking Friday-Saturday courses at other centers were able to meet as planned.

“With our network of teaching centers all over the Southeast and the lessons learned from Katrina, we know we can keep on teaching whatever befalls us, Kelley said. “We are continuously training our faculty to stay in touch with their students from anywhere. We are NOBTS. We will find ways to teach and equip our students whatever our circumstances may be.

“This matters because we want our students to believe and know they will be able to do ministry wherever God sends them and in whatever circumstances God gives them to address,” he continued. “The size of a wave may slow the progress of a boat, but it does not stop it.”

Many have contacted the seminary looking for ways to help the campus and its students. “Those who would like to help us with our repair bill can give to the seminary’s Providence Fund,” Kelley said. “Those who would like to help students with unexpected evacuation expenses can mark their gifts ‘Emergency Student Aid.’ Giving may be done online or via postal mail.”

Updates about the seminary’s recovery and reopening status are available at www.nobts.edu. Updates are posted as needed and as soon as information is available.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. N.C. Baptists contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599. To help in Pamlico County, visit here.)
9/4/2012 2:25:42 PM by | with 0 comments



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