September 2013

Syrian refugees thankful for hunger assistance

September 9 2013 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

MIDDLE EAST – At home in Syria, he was a lawyer. Today, he is a refugee in a neighboring country, looking for any type of work to support his wife and children and his nieces and nephews who had fled the country – 20 in all.

They found their way to a makeshift refugee town, where 20 families had used feed sacks, plastic bags, cardboard – anything they could find – to create shelters. The community, now with 100 families, has found some vacant farm land and worked out an agreement with the owner to grow some food there.

“With more than 5 million people displaced, either outside or inside the country, the challenges continue to mount as to where to respond,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR). “While there are some official sites and camps for refugees, the majority of those displaced are still in makeshift locations, such as with friends or families, or they are just finding anywhere relatively safe to lay their heads.”

Palmer met the refugee lawyer just two days after the family had arrived from Syria. He was able to share an emergency food packet provided by Southern Baptists through Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund).

BGR photo
Southern Baptist relief efforts are touching lives in significant ways as an estimated 2 million refugees have fled Syria for neighboring countries. One makeshift refugee town has grown from 20 families to 100 families. Southern Baptists are facilitating ongoing projects with Syrian refugees in four countries that are distributing food packets, hygiene kits and temporary shelter.

“The majority of Syrian refugees are women and children and a few older men,” Palmer said. “Husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles stayed behind to protect their precious resources – unfortunately, many times in vain. They were so thankful for the small amount of help we gave them. We promised we would be back the following week with more.”

An estimated 2 million refugees have fled Syria for neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. The prospect of Western powers entering the conflict has dramatically increased the outflow in recent days, Palmer noted.

“Our relief and development efforts among the refugees are into the second year,” Palmer said. “To date, we have helped mobilize over $750,000 in relief goods to this crisis – a small amount compared to the ongoing need, but we have been able to direct what we have to some key areas and through some key partners.”

Working primarily through partners on the ground who can mobilize critically needed items to refugees as well as internally displaced persons, BGR is helping mainly in the area of emergency food packets, hygiene kits, basic shelter materials and some small amounts of medicines through ongoing projects with Syrian refugees in four countries, Palmer reported.

“Most of these are the distribution of food packets, hygiene kits and temporary shelter needs to sustain families who literally have walked away from pretty much everything they own,” Palmer said. “All of them are done in the love and name of Christ to help these who have no one else to turn to.”

In the face of such great need, it is hard to only be able to share a small amount, Palmer added.

“I thought about the miracle of the fish and loaves. I wondered how God would multiply the small amount of food that each of them received,” he said. “I then thought about the generous donors in my home country. Even though many gave small amounts, God had multiplied their gifts and blessed them so that so many this day were blessed. 

“We ask continued prayer for wisdom and knowledge – to find the most effective and efficient places and people in need that we can help, to choose wisely,” Palmer said. “We also pray for continued safety and guidance for our partners who put so much at risk to respond. And we pray for peace – true peace – that can only come from above for all of those caught up in this terrible tragedy.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, on the Internet at World Hunger Sunday is Oct. 13. For information and resources on promoting hunger awareness in your church, visit

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9/9/2013 2:31:22 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Disaster relief: Baptists help form multi-faceted partnership

September 6 2013 by Laura Sikes, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – When Superstorm Sandy approached the northeast coast last October, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders temporarily set up a command center in Harrisburg, Pa., as they awaited landfall.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB), which coordinates SBDR multi-state responses, quickly began to facilitate Southern Baptists’ part of the large-scale relief effort for the hard-hit coast through its partnerships with Baptist state conventions; local, state and federal governments; the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army; and key corporations.

To effectively respond in times of crisis, partnerships must be formed in advance.

“You can’t wait and do it in the chaos of the moment,” said Fritz Wilson, SBDR executive director. “We have a network in place that I can go to immediately as quickly as we know what is happening.”

Based on requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Wilson discussed with several state Baptist DR leaders the deployment of all Baptist conventions east of the Rockies.

NCBM Facebook photo
The North Carolina Baptist Men International Search and Rescue team is in Hungary this week training with folks from Hungary, Germany, Ukraine, and Transylvania (Romania). Hungarian Baptist Aid is sponsoring this event. The North Carolina Baptist Men work closely with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and American Red Cross as well as other volunteer groups.

Several states, including Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina, deployed volunteer units immediately. Eventually, 25 state conventions deployed SBDR teams, making it one of the largest responses since Hurricane Katrina.

Both the New York and New Jersey state conventions reached out to NAMB to coordinate the response, akin to most large-scale disasters when affected states request assistance. Wilson said because of the strong partnerships within SBDR, which includes volunteers from all 42 state conventions and Canada, Southern Baptists are able to respond to disasters anywhere in the world through NAMB, the International Mission Board and Baptist Global Response.

North Carolina disaster relief director Gaylon Moss, whose team was asked by New Jersey Baptists through NAMB to manage the response there, agreed that partnership is crucial to effective disaster response. 

“Our national partner [NAMB] has a national footprint,” Moss said. “They have national relationships and can create a framework with any state.”

Federal and state government

FEMA administrator Craig Fugate is among those who have underscored SBDR’s role as a primary partner in disaster relief. “Until people are back in their homes,” Fugate said during the initial Sandy response, “Southern Baptist [volunteers] will be needed.”

Michael Whitehead, the Florida Department of Emergency Management’s mass care coordinator, echoed the need for strong partnerships and preparedness.

“Regardless of the forecast, we have to get ready for a major hurricane to hit southeast Florida,” Whitehead said. “People in the state of Florida and the governor expect a world-class disaster response every single time. The key to success in the state is that we work together as a team with nonprofits and the private sector when responding to disasters.”

In Florida, for example, the state gives logistical support to field kitchens by providing hand-washing stations, port-o-potties, dumpsters, ice and water trucks and other resources for the sites. In May, Florida hosted a National Mass Care exercise for a second year. Florida Baptists set up a feeding kitchen at the exercise, with SBDR team members working with many of their national partners.

Working with trained organized volunteer groups like SBDR, the American Red Cross (ARC) and The Salvation Army (TSA) is a big advantage, Whitehead said, noting, “They can come into a very austere environment and can operate.”

Nonprofit partners

As one of the three largest disaster relief volunteer organizations in the nation, with 82,000 trained volunteers and a fleet of 1,550 mobile units, Southern Baptists serve following nearly every disaster, Wilson said. ARC and TSA are the other two large-scale volunteer entities.

For more than 25 years, Baptists have worked with ARC on the national and local level. The partnership primarily involves disaster feeding operations but also includes other services. NAMB deploys representatives to the ARC’s Disaster Operations Center in Washington, D.C., to help coordinate major responses.

ARC mass care director Katherine Galifianakis said the collaboration has grown over the years as both organizations refined their relationship. Both are members of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and the National Mass Care Council. In addition, ARC representatives attend SBDR Round Table meetings where they network with state directors and volunteers. Being on a first-name basis with her Baptist partners helps, Galifianakis noted.

“On the scale that we need to provide 100,000-plus meals, we couldn’t do the feeding without Southern Baptists, period,” Galifianakis said. “It goes beyond the partnership to a deep friendship. It’s trust and respect of one another’s mission.” SBDR mobile feeding kitchens generally prepare most of the meals that ARC Emergency Relief Vehicles (ERVs) deliver to disaster survivors.

TSA, working with SBDR on a local and national level, also partners to provide mass feedings, with Jeff Jellets, disaster coordinator for TSA’s Southern Territory, noting, “When it comes to feeding, when we need to produce a lot of meals in a short time frame in a large disaster, we always go to Southern Baptists” for SBDR-prepared meals to help stock TSA mobile canteens that go out into affected areas.

Jellets said the relationship has grown from a state-by-state partnership to a national one, taking off after working together during 9/ll. SBDR and TSA volunteers partnered at a site in Staten Island when the two groups cared for emergency workers hauling debris from the site.

One of the newest partners with SBDR is Dignity U Wear, a nonprofit organization founded by Henri Landwirth. Dignity U Wear partnered with Southern Baptists this year to provide new clothing to survivors of the Oklahoma City-area tornados and the Colorado Springs-area wildfires. Dignity U Wear focuses on procuring new clothing and delivering it at the right time to people for whom it will make the most difference.

Corporate partnerships

Wilson said that corporate partners, like US Foods, are critical in meeting supply needs. US Foods and SBDR work together to provide service to ARC for its mass feeding during disasters, including ordering and delivery systems.

Christy Foley, US Foods director of national sales support, said the company designed menus around Southern Baptists’ food preparation and best practices for feeding. They assist SBDR with ordering food for the initial six-day disaster menus that mobile kitchens carry into responses. The partnerships connect kitchen leaders with the company’s divisions in placing food orders. “Without that alignment and partnership,” Foley said, “we wouldn’t be able to provide the great service.”

Fiberlock Technologies is another example of corporate partnership, Wilson said, recounting that the company donated enough of its disinfectant cleaner, ShockWave, during Sandy recovery efforts to sanitize 17 million square feet in mold remediation work in damaged properties.

The 30-year-old company began offering its expertise and assistance to SBDR recovery efforts prior to Katrina. “It’s a feel-good partnership,” said Cole Stanton, Fiberlock Technologies’ executive vice president. “We like the tenacity, too, that months after [the initial response, SBDR is] still there.” 


The partnership that ultimately propels Southern Baptist relief is the one with volunteers, Wilson reminded.

“We have folks who will drop and go at a moment’s notice,” he said. “They will go and continue to serve for a length of time to help people rebuild their lives. Volunteers from each of our state conventions are really the ones who keep all of this going. We are blessed to have the best.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Sikes writes for the North American Mission Board. To learn more about SBDR visit Watch the video below of American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern discussing SBDR cooperation.)

9/6/2013 3:26:09 PM by Laura Sikes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chris Tomlin, Lecrae lead Dove nominees

September 6 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Worship leader and songwriter Chris Tomlin and rapper Lecrae lead the list of nominees for this year’s Dove Awards, which honor Christian music’s top artists.

The awards show is scheduled for Oct. 15 at Nashville’s Allen Arena on the campus of Lipscomb University and will be broadcast Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. Eastern on the UP television network (originally the Gospel Music Channel).

Jackie Patillo, executive director of the Gospel Music Association, said the Dove Awards celebrate “the impact of all genres of gospel music, recognizing talent, ministry and outstanding performances. The excitement and energy of the Dove Awards show is something we all look forward to – and this year will prove to be better than ever.”

In the Aug. 21 announcement of nominees for the 44th annual awards, Tomlin was listed for artist of the year, song of the year, praise and worship song of the year, pop/contemporary album of the year, special event album of the year and praise and worship album of the year.

Lecrae was listed for artist of the year, rap/hip hop song of the year, rap/hip hop album of the year and special event album of the year.

Following is a list of nominees for some of the top awards:
  • SONG OF THE YEAR – “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” (Matt Redman), “All I Can Do (Thank You)” (Mikeschair), “Break Every Chain” (Tasha Cobbs), “Forgiveness” (Matthew West), “From My Rags to His Riches” (Devin McGlamery), “Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored” (Gaither Vocal Band), “Hold On” (Canton Junction), “I’m Learning” (Aaron and Amanda Crabb), “Live Like That” (Sidewalk Prophets), “Need You Now (How Many Times)” (Plumb), “Not For a Moment (After All)” (Meredith Andrews), “One Thing Remains” (Kristian Stanfill), “Redeemed” (Big Daddy Weave), “Sometimes I Wonder” (Ernie Haase and Signature Sound), “Take Him to the Place” (Aaron and Amanda Crabb), “Take Me to the King” (Tamela Mann), “The Proof of Your Love” (for King and Country), “What the Blood is For” (Jason Crabb), “Where I Belong” (Building 429), “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” (Chris Tomlin), “Why Can’t We” (The Isaacs).
  • SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR – Ben Glover, Benji Cowart, Matt Redman, Toby McKeehan, Wayne Haun.
  • ARTIST OF THE YEAR – Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Lecrae, Tamela Mann, TobyMac.
  • NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR – Capital Kings, Colton Dixon, for King and Country, Rhett Walker Band, Tasha Cobbs.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Read a complete list of nominees at 
9/6/2013 3:16:16 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Religious diversity, pitfalls increasing at the office

September 6 2013 by David Gibson, Religion News Service

The American workplace, like the rest of U.S. society, is becoming more religiously diverse and that is raising concerns about employer accommodations for believers — and increasing the odds for uncomfortable moments around the water cooler.
Yet one potential flashpoint among workers does not involve new immigrant faiths but rather two indigenous communities: white evangelicals and unaffiliated Americans who constitute one of the fastest-growing segments of the population.
A major factor contributing to workplace conflict, according to a survey released Aug. 30, is that evangelicals — whose religious identity is tied to sharing their beliefs — are much more likely to talk about their faith at work than other religious and nonreligious groups.
In fact, half of white evangelical Protestants said they share their beliefs with co-workers, compared to 22 percent of workers overall, according to the 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion, sponsored by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.
And one-third of evangelicals said they discuss religion frequently, compared to 14 percent of non-Christian believers, 10 percent of Catholics and 7 percent of white mainline Protestants. Moreover, nearly 9-in-10 white evangelical employees say they are somewhat or very comfortable when the issue of religion comes up in the workplace.
Conversely, the research found that nonbelievers are reticent to discuss religion and 43 percent of them say they feel somewhat or very uncomfortable when the topic comes up.
“This suggests the potential for workplace clashes between atheists and evangelical Protestants,” the report says.
The survey was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, which questioned more than 2,000 American adults in both English and Spanish. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.
Given the findings, it is perhaps not surprising that both nonbelievers and evangelicals shared a heightened sense of bias: Nearly 6-in-10 atheists said they think people look down on their beliefs, and nearly 6-in-10 of white evangelicals agreed that discrimination against Christians has become as big a problem as discrimination against other religious minorities.
“There’s a clear sense in the data, especially among white evangelicals, that other workers’ needs are being taken care of and theirs are not,” said Robert P. Jones, head of the Public Religion Research Institute.
Jones added that along with their growing numbers, the “nones” are also increasingly confident in proclaiming their lack of religious affiliation, which in turn contributes to the potential for workplace interactions — and conflicts — over religion.
David Sikkink, a sociologist of religion at the University of Notre Dame who reviewed the report, also noted that while most believers — as well as nonbelievers — don’t look to the office as a place to find meaning and direction in their lives, evangelicals often take the opposite view and see the workplace as a venue for living out their religious identity.
“Evangelicals want to be different somehow, to take a stand, and to show that God is working in their lives through them,” Sikkink said.
He said that does not always mean sharing the specifics of their faith, but can instead be demonstrated by the way evangelicals deal with workplace problems, or simply in their focus on developing friendships with their co-workers. Still, the endpoint of such relationships is a conversation about faith, “and eventually that may rub the nonreligious the wrong way.”
Overall, the incidence of workplace conflicts and discrimination over religion seems to be a fairly significant issue, according to the survey, with one-third of respondents reporting that they have seen or experienced incidents of religious bias in the workplace.
The most frequently cited problems were not interactions with co-workers but instead related to a failure of companies to provide sufficient accommodations for believers, especially non-Christians. Half of those respondents said that their employers are ignoring their religious needs.
Among the other findings:
  • Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the respondents reported being required to work on the Sabbath or a religious holiday and 13 percent said they attended company-sponsored events that did not include kosher, halal, or vegetarian options;
  • Less than half (44 percent) of workers said their employers had flexible work hours to permit religious observances or prayer and 21 percent said their company had a policy allowing employees to swap holidays to accommodate religious observances;
  • Four in 10 workers said their company had materials explaining their policy on religious discrimination, and 14 percent said their employer had programs to teach workers about religious diversity.
On the other hand, while the Tanenbaum report says that American companies need to do more to accommodate religious believers, it also found strong incentives for businesses to adapt: The survey showed that employees at companies that were sensitive to religious needs reported better morale and were much less likely to look for another job.
“With a growing number of nonreligious workers and a growing number of workers who are not Jewish or Christian, many employers are just figuring out how to navigate these waters,” said Jones.
9/6/2013 3:08:26 PM by David Gibson, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Black church plants grow, research shows

September 5 2013 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – A steady increase in attendance has been the overall trend among African American churches planted prior to 2012, LifeWay Research learned from “the first research project of its size and scope,” as researchers described it, “to measure characteristics distinctive to the African American context.”

The average first-year Sunday attendance of 37 doubled by the fourth year among the 290 African American church plants in the multidenominational survey aimed at identifying characteristics of healthy new congregations.

Worship attendance, new commitments to Christ, community demographics, church culture, facility usage, promotion and outreach, and church sponsorship and funding were studied in the project.

“This research has described in detail African American church planting today,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “More importantly, this research has begun productive conversations among church planting leaders across the U.S. about how best to train and equip new African American church plants.”

Stetzer added that large national studies on church planting have been conducted in the past, “but it would be wrong to assume that national factors are the same for every sub-population of church plants.”


Worship attendance

The survey identified three characteristics that had the most positive impact on worship attendance, which were present in more than two-thirds of the churches: delegation of leadership roles to volunteers; leadership training for new church members; and a plan of personal spiritual formation for the church planter.

The study found worship style impacts attendance. The most common worship style used by African American church plants was blended, cited by 45 percent of those surveyed, followed by contemporary gospel, contemporary and urban contemporary, ranging from 12-14 percent. However, church plants with a more distinctive style, urban contemporary for instance, had higher attendance than churches using a blended style.

New commitments

The average number of new commitments to Christ for the first year of a church plant was 16, LifeWay Research found. The average number of new commitments peaked in year three at 20 and then remained at 12 or higher for the remainder of the years measured.

The study identified two characteristics that stood out as having a positive impact on new commitments to Christ and were present among more than two-thirds of the churches: door-to-door evangelism (75 percent) and the establishment of a new member class (68 percent).

Six characteristics were shown to impact both worship attendance and new commitments to Jesus Christ:
  • Church planter compensated for their work (52 percent of the new churches).
  • Weeklong boot camp or basic training provided for the church planter (42 percent).
  • Church planter worked 60 hours a week or more on the church plant during the first two years of existence (39 percent).
  • A sponsor or mother church permitted the plant to meet in the sponsoring church building (32 percent).
  • The plants had their own facilities during the first five years (20 percent).
  • The church plant incorporated a contemporary worship style (13 percent).

Community demographics

On average, African American churches were planted in communities that were largely made up of the following ethnic groups: African American (42 percent), white (35 percent), Hispanic (13 percent), African or Caribbean decent (4 percent), Asian (3 percent) and other (3 percent).

The survey asked church plants to select what ethnicity or race they specifically sought to reach in the community around the church. About two-thirds (68 percent) of churches focused on reaching African Americans. More than 80 percent of church planters said they also intentionally sought to reach a cross-cultural or multiethnic audience.

Church sponsorship and funding

The LifeWay Research study found 48 percent of new churches were sponsored by another church. Among the sponsoring churches, 79 percent provided active prayer support while 53 percent provided mentoring to the church planter or church planting team, researchers noted.

“A sponsoring or mother church is often a crucial aspect of successful church [plants] for obvious reasons,” said Carl Ellis, assistant professor of practical theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas and a consultant on the research project. “The fewer burdens a church plant has to carry in the initial stages, the greater is the likelihood that the new church will succeed.”

The primary funding sources for African American church plants were core members (84 percent), affiliated denominations (62 percent), the church planter or church planting team (49 percent) and the personal financial support network of the church planter (44 percent). The study also found 36 percent of church plants received funding from one or more sponsoring churches.

The average amount received by church starts from outside sources was $21,818 in the first year. Average dollars received from members or attendees in the first year was $33,301. During the first seven years, outside funding declined 44 percent, while dollars from members or attendees grew 211 percent, the research found.

Among the African American church plants surveyed, 29 percent were self-sufficient by their first year. Half achieved self-sufficiency by the fourth year and 60 percent by year 10.

Many church planters received support other than financial during their first years. Sixty percent said they received church planter mentoring, coaching or supervision, and training for themselves or their team.

Church planters

The project indicated 55 percent of planters received church planting training prior to starting a church. But only 16 percent received specific training on the dynamics of the African American context prior to planting. Sixty-nine percent said they would benefit from that type of training today.

Two-thirds (69 percent) were bivocational the first two years of the plant’s existence. Despite so many having a second job, 63 percent of church planters worked 40 hours a week or more at the church plant. Slightly more than half (52 percent) received some financial compensation for their work as a church planter, but only 38 percent of them termed the financial compensation adequate to meet the basic needs of themselves and their families.

The majority of church planters arrived on the field as a single staff member. Only six percent of the church plants had a paid, staffed team of more than one person to start the church.

Church planters from more than 20 denominations and several non-denominational churches participated in the study. Almost half (43 percent) were started since 2007. Most of them, 94 percent, still exist. Among the churches that closed, lack of financial support was the most common contributing factor.

Stetzer expressed appreciation for the study’s sponsors and their interest “to measure the reality of African American church planting today.”

The North American Mission Board (SBC), Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Mission to North America (PCA), Assemblies of God, Path 1 (United Methodist Church), International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Foursquare Church were among the sponsors who received study results at the biannual meeting of the Church Planter Leadership Fellowship in August.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
9/5/2013 1:39:04 PM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

27 of 65 new missionaries served overseas as students

September 5 2013 by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press

HAMPTON, Va. – David Taylor never imagined himself on an overseas mission trip. But when his Bible study leader at North Carolina State University asked him to pray about a summer mission trip in 2002 to Asia, Taylor agreed.

Taylor subsequently made the trip, and it changed the direction of his life.

“I assumed I would get a job, get married, make a lot of money and raise a family,” said Taylor, one of 65 new missionaries appointed by International Mission Board (IMB) trustees at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., on Aug. 28.

“God had different plans,” said Taylor, who will be serving in Southeast Asia with the mission board.

Belinda Oakes*, who will serve in Central Asia, went on a mission trip nearly every year from the time she was 12.

“God began stirring up a deep desire in my teenage heart to share the gospel around the world,” Oakes said. “When I was 21 on a mission trip to the Americas ... God called me to serve Him among the nations.” 

IMB photo by Will Stuart
Paul and Tracy Barth, who will serve among European peoples, interact with family and friends during the reception following the appointment service.  

After college, Oakes spent two years in Africa as an IMB journeyman. For Oakes, her appointment is simply the next step in obedience to God’s call to international service. 

The implication of stories like these is not necessarily surprising – exposure to missions as a student is a first step toward long-term service. Of the new missionaries, 27 indicated that mission trips during high school and college sparked their initial passion for global outreach. Five others previously served with IMB through the Journeyman and ISC (International Service Corps) programs.

The appointment service comes as classes resume across the United States and hundreds of student missionaries begin sharing their summer international missions experiences through IMB.

Kirk Jefford*, a junior majoring in physics at Washington State University, ventured in his first international trip to East Asia where he taught English on university campuses. For Jefford, who served through a new IMB initiative called Face2Face, it was his first time to grasp “the true joy of sharing Jesus.”

Because of his experience, Jefford is rethinking his career goals. He plans to return overseas for six months as an IMB Hands On worker when he completes his undergraduate degree.

“I’ve got the bug,” Jefford said. “I need to go back. Those few months were awesome but they weren’t enough to cultivate relationships. I wish I could have stayed longer.”

Allison Partinton*, who grew up as the daughter of missionaries in Japan, served with a Nehemiah Team in remote villages in the central Philippines along the Oras River. 

While her experiences in the villages were much different from her life as a child in Japan or as a college student in the United States, Partinton’s work taught her the importance of embracing the unreached. That message echoes the consistent call sounded by IMB President Tom Elliff, one he reiterated in the Aug. 28 service. 

Preaching from Ephesians 6:18-20, Elliff challenged the audience to pray Spirit-initiated and Spirit-informed prayers – reminding them to pray that missionaries will be “faithful in the message and bold in the mystery of the gospel” among the world’s hardest-to-reach people in the hardest-to-reach places. 

Like many students, Partinton understands the challenge.

“Unreached people groups are real. They are out there,” she said. “I realized that where I want to be and what I want to do is to go where other people aren’t going or can’t go.”

If this group of recently appointed missionaries is any indication, the future of world missions is promising. One day Jefford and Partinton may also stand in the place of Taylor and Oakes, commissioned as career missionaries for the sake of reaching the nations.

“Whether it’s back to the river or somewhere new,” Partintin said, “I want to be where people haven’t had a chance to hear the gospel.”

*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is a writer with the International Mission Board. For more information on IMB student opportunities, visit
9/5/2013 1:25:10 PM by Tess Rivers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Reparative therapy defenders remain active

September 5 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Religious freedom advocate Liberty Counsel is at the forefront of groups continuing to fight for the right of teenage patients to receive reparative therapy to treat homosexuality, countering legislation in New Jersey and California banning the treatment.

Liberty Counsel has filed suit against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others to reverse the state’s law prohibiting reparative therapy for minors and will seek another redress of a similar law in California, according to Liberty Counsel news releases.

In New Jersey, where lawmakers passed a law in August immediately prohibiting licensed therapists from offering reparative therapy to patients younger than 18, Liberty Counsel has filed an injunctive suit on behalf of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, the American Association of Christian Counselors and Drs. Tara King and Ronald Newman and their patients. They are calling for the law’s reversal as unconstitutional.

The New Jersey law “denies or severely impairs Plaintiffs’ clients and all minors their right to self-determination, their right to prioritize their religious and moral values, and their right to receive effective counseling consistent with those values,” the Liberty Counsel suit charges.

The law also “infringes on the fundamental rights of Plaintiffs’ clients and the rights of the parents of Plaintiffs’ clients to direct the upbringing and education of their children, which includes the right to meet each child’s individual counseling, developmental and spiritual needs,” the suit states.

Regarding California, Liberty Counsel said it will either ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a ruling upholding the ban on reparative therapy or will seek to get a hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court in August upheld that state’s ban on reparative therapy for minors, nine months after Liberty Counsel had obtained an injunction blocking the implementation of the law.

“California has authority,” the appeals court ruled, “to prohibit licensed mental health providers from administering therapies that the legislature has deemed harmful.”

Liberty Counsel maintains that many patients have been helped by reparative therapy, and that the 2009 findings of the American Psychological Association have been misapplied by those who want to block such therapy.

“That Task Force Report specifically states that there is evidence of benefit of such counseling,” Liberty Counsel has said, “and any such reports to the contrary were only anecdotal. The Report also states that there is no research – none – regarding the effects of change therapy involving minors.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.)
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9/5/2013 1:16:48 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAMB scholarship funds global outreach

September 5 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

TORONTO – Church planter Randall Edwards* not only had the 6 million people of metro Toronto in mind when he moved to the city seven months ago. With immigrants comprising 52 percent of the population, he had the whole world in mind.

“We came here with the mindset of going global,” Edwards said. “Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world and one of the most strategic places in the West to reach unreached people groups. We want to see them come to Christ here.”

The church plant, although not officially launched, already has involved a variety of immigrants, Edwards said. With the hope of mobilizing his church plant to help penetrate lostness among an unreached people group in North Africa, Edwards and his wife Amanda* participated in a June vision trip to the continent through the International Mission Board.

More people from that unreached people group live in Toronto than any other city in the world outside of Africa, said Edwards. He envisions not only mobilizing his church for onsite ministry in Africa among the people group, but also strengthening the church plant’s own ministry among the group back in Toronto. Edwards’ name and the name of this people group have been withheld to protect the church’s future ministry opportunities in North Africa.

Edwards took the trip with the help of scholarship funds from the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Southern Baptist church planters who are members of the Send North America Support Network are eligible for up to $3,000 to purchase plane tickets for a planter and a spouse, or another team member, to take a vision trip to minister to an unreached people group. NAMB makes the funds available to the planter when his church adopts a people group through IMB and receives the appropriate training.

“We believe these trips will help church planters gain a Kingdom mindset, a vision greater than just the city where they are planting,” said Micah Millican, NAMB’s director of church planter relations. “As they develop a heartbeat for the nations, they’ll lead their congregations into a global perspective on missions.”

NAMB leaders hope the effort will encourage church plants to engage the 3,100 unreached people groups currently not being engaged with the gospel by any church or mission organization. So far, nearly 100 church planters have identified a people group and are going through the process of adopting and engaging the group with the help of NAMB and IMB.

“Jesus never intended for the Great Commission to be sequential, that we start in Jerusalem and then once that’s accomplished we then turn our attention to the rest of the world,” said Ken Winter, IMB vice president of church and partner services. “He intended that we live out every day as global Christians, making disciples of all peoples. We are grateful for this partnership with NAMB to introduce the challenge of reaching the unreached into the DNA of new churches from the very beginning.”

Edwards expects his recent trip will have a DNA-building influence on his church, as he takes what he learned and begins to mobilize his church’s involvement among the people group.

“We have a global city in Toronto, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people here have a global missions mindset, and that’s the key,” Edwards said. “The global nature of the city means that it’s a great launching point to the world.”

Even though he grew up traveling the world and lives in one of the most international cities on earth, Edwards says his recent trip brought many new realizations.

“Just seeing the work of God in a different region of the world impacted me greatly,” Edwards said. “It gave me a renewed vision for what we are doing here. It put it in perspective. You can get so myopic that you forget that God is working in different ways all around the world. I got to see work being done that was completely distinct from what I had ever seen before.”

For more information on the Send North America Support Network and the criteria for being a part of it, visit or contact Micah Millican at

*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.) 
9/5/2013 1:09:15 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trustees: Recession made LifeWay 'more dependent on God'

September 5 2013 by Marty King, Baptist Press

RIDGECREST, N.C. – Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources approved additional property in the sale of Glorieta Conference Center, elected a new technology vice president and received an encouraging report from Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO.

“Significant changes have taken place at LifeWay over the last eight years,” Rainer told the trustees at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. “Had we not made these changes, LifeWay would be in serious trouble today.”

Rainer described the challenges of coping with an increasingly digital world and the “great economic recession” which brought about permanent changes in many church practices.

“We were not prepared for the fact that some of the changes churches made in response to the recession would continue to impact LifeWay even beyond the downturn,” Rainer said. “But the changes made us more dependent on God, more efficient, and a stronger organization prepared for the future.”

Photo by Carol Pipes
LifeWay trustees gathered Aug. 26-27 at Ridgecrest for their regular fall meeting.

Rainer cited numerous examples of growth in the sale of LifeWay resources including the reverse of a 29-year decline in sales of ongoing Bible study curriculum.

“Every quarter for nearly three decades, the number of units of ongoing Bible study materials used by churches has declined. But, for the last four quarters, those units have increased,” Rainer said.

“Stop and consider the magnitude of that information. The resources that provide more ministry to more churches and individuals than anything else LifeWay produces declined for nearly 30 years, but have now increased four quarters in a row. That is an incredible blessing of God.”

During the Aug. 26-27 meeting, Rainer also highlighted advances in B&H Publishing books, Bibles and supplies, growth of LifeWay Christian Stores, and strategic information provided by LifeWay Research, along with increased effectiveness and efficiency from LifeWay’s support areas.


Additionally, Rainer spoke briefly about the sale of Glorieta Conference Center to a Christian camping ministry called Glorieta 2.0.

“Despite the pain, we cannot continue to fund Glorieta and deprive resources to other areas of LifeWay,” he said. “That’s not the right stewardship. My heart tells me we’re doing the right thing.”

Trustees voted to add 140 acres to its previously announced sale of Glorieta, located near Santa Fe, N.M., to Glorieta 2.0. Because the tract is not contiguous to the main Glorieta campus, LifeWay was planning to market it separately. However, Lifeway decided to include it in the sale “to provide additional incentive for Glorieta 2.0 to increase compensation to those who have built cabins and made other improvements on leased property on the campus,” Jerry Rhyne, Lifeway’s vice president of finance, said.

Sixty-five churches, institutions and individuals own structures on lots at Glorieta but do not own the land – a practice started in 1952 with 25-year non-renewable leases. Most of the current leases expire this fall and, if not renewed, require leaseholders to vacate the properties.

Glorieta 2.0 has given leaseholders several options to expiration:
  • compensation based on the size of each structure, ranging from a minimum of $40,000 to a maximum of $100,000;
  • a new 12-year lease;
  • those who have been involved in ministry, including pastors and missionaries, can become permanent residents of Glorieta and stay on campus as long as they are physically able; or
  • donation of their homes to Glorieta 2.0 as a charitable contribution.
Leaseholders have until Sept. 1 to choose one of the options.

New vice president of technology

Trustees unanimously elected Tim Hill as LifeWay’s new vice president of the technology division.

Hill comes to LifeWay after implementing and leading large-scale technology infrastructures for national and international corporations with multi-million-dollar budgets and thousands of employees. Most recently he served as CIO and vice president of information technology for American Residential Services, a network of home service businesses with 5,000 employees and based in Memphis, Tenn.

Hill told the trustees he and his wife Beth feel a strong calling to LifeWay. “We love LifeWay’s mission and vision, and I am excited and invigorated about joining a company with such a rich history of Kingdom service and ministry.”

He holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Iowa.

After expressing his appreciation for their vote, Hill shared with trustees his highest priorities are improving efficiency and reducing technology costs, upgrading outdated software and retaining and recruiting the best IT employees.

Growth of church resources

In his presentation to LifeWay trustees, Eric Geiger, vice president of church resources, attributed much of the turnaround of LifeWay curriculum to the success of The Gospel Project and the recently re-launched Bible Studies for Life.

“We have trustworthy content that fits in multiple environments,” Geiger said. He explained that while some churches are using The Gospel Project and Bible Studies for Life for their ongoing Sunday morning Bible studies, others are using the short-term version for weeknight Bible studies. “We want to provide great content no matter when a group meets,” Geiger said.

Geiger also reported more than 175,000 children and students attended LifeWay camps this summer resulting in 2,367 professions of faith and 983 students surrendering to ministry. In addition to the success of its camps, LifeWay’s conference for men, The Main Event, was sold out with 600 churches participating from 24 states.

Geiger announced the much-anticipated launch of Ministry Grid this November as well as new versions of Explore the Bible for kids, students and small groups in fall 2014.

B&H Publishing grows in mass market

In her report to LifeWay trustees, B&H Publishing vice president Selma Wilson expressed her gratefulness for God’s favor in allowing B&H resources to reach not only the Christian market but also the mass market.

“The mass market wants more of ‘50 Shades of Gray,’ vampires, demons and the dark side,” Wilson said. Even so, “God is giving us opportunities to put the gospel right in the middle of the mass market.” 

Wilson announced B&H has received several Christian publishing awards. “Those awards allow us to go into the broader marketplace with greater credibility so we can advance the gospel both here and around the world,” Wilson said. B&H products are now sold in 70 countries.

In other business, LifeWay trustees:
  •  approved a 2014 operating budget of $510.8 million, a 1.2 percent increase over the projected 2013 end of year revenue.
  • welcomed eight new trustees: Weldon Aultman, Indianola, Miss.; Darron Edwards, Kansas City, Mo.; Charles Green, Grand Junction, Colo.; Beth Griffin, Birmingham, Ala.; Blake Lindley, Norman, Okla.; Peter MacMaster, Healy, Ark.; Wayne Morgan, Nansfield, Ga.; and Jerry White, Chesnee, S.C.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marty King is director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
9/5/2013 12:54:53 PM by Marty King, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB president laments Christians' callousness

September 4 2013 by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press

ROCKVILLE, Va. – International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff is concerned that Christians have become desensitized to everyone’s need for a Savior.

Christians pray for others’ hearts to be stirred toward Christ but they also need to pray that their own hearts are continually stirred by a deep burden for the spiritually lost, Elliff told International Mission Board trustees during an Aug. 27-28 meeting at the IMB International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.

Elliff said he has a hard time sleeping after watching the evening news, not just because of wars, disasters and other tragedies, but because “every one of us has learned how to look at the most horrific things you can imagine and be unmoved by them.”

“We know where the great tragedies are, we see people running for their lives and starving physically,” Elliff said. But most often they also are starving spiritually.

IMB photo by Thomas Graham
IMB trustees prayed during their Aug. 28 meeting in Rockville, Va., for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions to support Southern Baptist missionaries overseas. This year's goal is $175 million.

“We’ve learned how to be aware of lostness but not be moved by lostness,” Elliff said. “We have a tendency when speaking of lostness to speak of it statistically.” But statistical overload, he said, doesn’t equate those numbers with individuals in dire need of Jesus. 

The words of Proverbs 24:11 haunt Elliff: “Deliver those who are being taken away to death and those who are staggering to slaughter. Oh, hold them back” (NASB).

“‘Hold them back,’ God says. That’s our mandate,” Elliff said. “Everything we do must be framed in the light of the lostness of this earth. That’s what we’re about.” 

Southern Baptist churches need to be focused together in one sacred effort of pulling people back from lostness and an eternity separated from God, he said. 

“Missions is the stack pole of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he stated. “Missions is all about lostness.”

When Southern Baptists give to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, it isn’t to meet a need IMB has, Elliff stressed. It’s to meet the need the world has for the gospel.

Meeting the real need

Every penny of the $175 million Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) goal is absolutely needed, David Steverson, IMB vice president of finance and treasurer, told trustees during his report.

Southern Baptists’ international missionary count remains under 5,000, a limit necessitated by the economic downturn of the past few years.

The LMCO goal since 2009 of receiving $175 million within one year has not been reached. The closest the offering has come to $175 million was slightly more than $150 million in 2006 and 2007 and nearly $150 million in 2012.

“People ask, ‘Why not lower the goal?’” Elliff told trustees. “The problem is not the goal; it’s not high enough.

“We need to reach that goal just as a testimony of our awareness of the lostness of the world,” he continued. “I am grateful for every coin that has come, for every person that has sacrificed, but now is not the time to retrench.... There has never been a greater time for missions than this.”

Hispanics engaging lostness

Underlining that point, trustees approved IMB’s launching of a new initiative called the Kairos Project to mobilize Hispanic Southern Baptists to serve as cross-cultural missionaries. They will serve in strategic roles around the world where their language skills and cultural affinities will provide greater access to reach others with the gospel. Kairos is a Greek word that means “at the opportune moment.”

Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. evangelical community, including Southern Baptists. It is estimated that the number of Hispanic Baptist churches will double to 7,000 by 2020.

IMB is seeking qualified applicants for the Kairos Project within the International Service Corps (ISC) category of missionary service. ISC terms are typically two to three years. It is anticipated they will serve in Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Latin America.

Applications to serve in the Kairos Project currently are being accepted at the website. Within the online application form, type “Kairos Project” in the box titled, “Type of Job Assignment Preferred.”

Hispanics who want to be considered for Kairos Project missionary deployment to the field by the end of 2014 should initiate the ISC application process this fall. More information on the project is available from IMB initial contacts at (888) 422-6461; email

Storying together

IMB is engaging 204 people groups that have no access to the Word of God, reported John Brady, IMB vice president of global strategy.

To help address this need, IMB’s office of orality strategies has put together a team to translate key Bible stories into oral Scripture resources so people can hear the gospel for the first time in their heart (native) language. The project is called Storying Together.

In other business:
  • Trustees expressed appreciation for a $5.3 million estate gift, one of the largest gifts designated for the Lottie Moon offering ever given. They also gave thanks for two other estate gifts, totaling more than $56,000.
  • Trustees approved a revision to IMB’s mission statement to read: “Our mission is evangelizing, discipling and planting reproducing churches among all peoples in fulfillment of the Great Commission.”
  • Trustees learned about the launch of Skybridge Community, a new Marketplace Advance initiative to help North American Christians living overseas find ways to more intentionally be involved in missions where they are located. Skybridge Community’s website will launch in September at
  • Trustees recommended 24 missionaries for emeriti status, representing 623 years of service.
  • Trustees appointed 65 new missionaries honored at a service at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., bringing IMB’s missionary total to 4,885.
The next IMB trustee meeting will be Nov. 7-8 in Charlotte, N.C., with a missionary appointment service Nov. 10 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Gregory writes for the International Mission Board from Richmond, Va.)
9/4/2013 2:53:37 PM by Kate Gregory, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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