September 2015

Study: Pope improves pastors’ views of Catholic Church

September 28 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, Baptist Press

Pope Francis is boosting the reputation of the Catholic Church among Protestant pastors in America, a new study shows.
 
Nearly 4 in 10 say the pope, known for his humility and concern for the poor, has had a positive impact on their opinions of the Catholic Church, LifeWay Research finds. Almost two-thirds view Pope Francis as a genuine Christian and “brother in Christ.”
 
However, half of Protestant pastors say they do not value Pope Francis’ opinion on matters of theology.
 

Changing views

LifeWay Research asked 1,000 Protestant pastors in America about their views in a phone survey from Sept. 8-21, 2015, shortly before the pontiff’s visit to the United States this week.

 
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Pope Francis, who in March 2013 became the first non-European and first Jesuit priest to be named pope, has been outspoken on such issues as welcoming immigrants, shunning materialism and protecting the environment.
 
For 43 percent of Protestant pastors, Pope Francis has not changed their views of the Catholic Church. However, half say the current pope has affected their opinions – and nearly three times as many cite a positive impact (37 percent) as a negative one (14 percent).
 
“Our sample itself – Protestant pastors – is named after the Protestant Reformation, so they are particularly interesting to survey,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “And the survey says that this pope does, indeed, have a ‘Francis effect,’ even on a group of people named for protesting the very faith the pope leads.”
 
Ninety percent of Protestant pastors agree Catholics can be “born-again Christians,” but they are less certain whether Pope Francis is their “brother in Christ.” Sixty-three percent believe he is a genuine Christian, while 22 percent disagree, and 16 percent are unsure.
 
Evangelical pastors report more skepticism about Pope Francis than their mainline Protestant counterparts. While 80 percent of mainline Protestant pastors believe the pope is a true Christian, only 58 percent of evangelical pastors agree.
 
“The fact that some pastors don’t see the pope as their ‘brother in Christ’ seems strange to many outside Protestantism and evangelicalism, I imagine,” Stetzer said. “However, the forerunners of most Protestant pastors – from Luther, to Wesley, to Spurgeon, to many others – certainly did not see the pope as their ‘brother in Christ.’

 
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“Within a few centuries, the pope has gone from anti-Christ to ‘brother in Christ’ for a lot of Protestants.”
 
Protestant pastors are divided on whether they value Pope Francis’ opinion on theological issues. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) say they value the pope’s opinion, but 50 percent say they do not. Mainline pastors (57 percent) are more likely than evangelical pastors (36 percent) to say they value Pope Francis’ opinion.
 
Mainline pastors are also more likely to say Pope Francis has influenced their opinion of the Catholic Church, with 50 percent saying the impact has been positive and 9 percent saying it has been negative. In contrast, 30 percent of evangelical pastors say Pope Francis has boosted their opinion of Catholicism, while 15 percent say their opinion has declined.

 
Divided views

Favorable views of Pope Francis are most pronounced among highly educated Protestant pastors and those in the Northeast, the survey finds.
 
Fifty-one percent of Protestant pastors in the Northeast say Pope Francis improves their opinion of the Catholic Church, compared to 38 percent in the Midwest, 34 percent in the South, and 31 percent in the West. Most Northeastern pastors (53 percent) also say they value the pope’s opinions on theological matters, a view shared by fewer than half of pastors in the Midwest (45 percent), South (39 percent), and West (38 percent).
 
More than two-thirds of Protestant pastors with a master’s or doctoral degree (69 percent) view Pope Francis as a genuine Christian and brother in Christ, compared to 42 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or no college degree.
 
Those with a master’s degree or higher are also significantly more likely to say they value Pope Francis’ opinions on theological matters (49 percent) and the pope improves their opinion of the Catholic Church (43 percent). Among those with less formal education, 22 percent value the pope’s theological opinion and 18 percent say he has a positive impact on their view of Catholicism.
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 8-21, 2015. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches in America. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister, or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine. LifeWay Research, based in Nashville, is an evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.)

9/28/2015 12:31:38 PM by Lisa Cannon Green, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Yogi Berra, dead at 90, lives on in sermons

September 28 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When former New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra died Sept. 22 at age 90, the sports world lost a 13-time World Series champion. Some preachers, meanwhile, lost a source of sermon material who mixed humor with wisdom.
 
Southern Baptist pastors – Ken Whitten, Jack Graham, James Merritt and, according to Merritt, Adrian Rogers among them – have long quoted Berra’s famous “Yogi-isms.” Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, the three-time MVP was in the Major Leagues as a player, manager and coach for 40-plus years.
 
“Every pastor who loves baseball has probably used Yogi in their sermons,” said Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., and a longtime Yankees fan, “because pastors are attracted to one-liners.”

 
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Wikipedia photo
Yogi Berra's 1953 Baseball Card

Though Berra once quipped, “I really didn’t say everything I said,” the dozens of one-liners attributed to him include:

  • “Never answer an anonymous letter.”

  • “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  • “Baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half is physical.”

  • “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

  • “Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.”

Whitten told Baptist Press Yogi-isms are valuable for sermons because their wit resembles that of Jesus’ teachings.
 
When Jesus said it would be “easier for a rich man to enter into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,” His listeners likely laughed, Whitten said. “It was funny. Jesus would use that to break up His messages.”
 
Also like Berra, “no one used irony in messages more than the Lord Jesus Christ,” Whitten said.
 
Berra, who was Catholic, heard the gospel on numerous occasions, Whitten said. Yankee teammate Bobby Richardson “shared the gospel many, many times with Yogi, and they had a lot of conversations about the Lord,” said Whitten, a friend of the former second baseman.
 
Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, said Berra’s words have helped him call people to faith in Christ.
 
“One Yogi-ism I’ve used in terms of making a decision to follow Christ is, ‘If you come to a fork in the road, take it,’” said Graham.
 
Graham has also modified one of Berra’s most famous quips to highlight God’s sovereignty and the eternality of heaven.
 
“I said this recently in a message: It ain’t over til it’s over, but really it’s not over til God says it’s over. And it’s never over if you know Christ,” Graham said.
 
“Through the years, some of these things [Berra said] would pop into my head and I would use them” in sermons, he said.
 
A Yankees fan as a child in the 1950s and 60s, Graham once requested by mail and received an autographed photo of Berra. Today, Graham’s pet beagle is named Yogi.
 
Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., quotes Berra frequently in sermons and told BP the late Rogers of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., also quoted the famed Yankee.
 
Yogi-isms “did make a point,” Merritt said. “Yogi wasn’t trying to be funny just to be funny. In his own way, he was really quite profound.”
 
Merritt has quoted “it’s déjà vu all over again” to urge people not to repeat the negative aspects of history and “if you come to a fork in the road, take it” to encourage seizing opportunities.
 
Berra authored several books, and Merritt said he owns them all.
 
“I would encourage not just preachers, but anybody – if you want a good laugh, if you also want to see how humor can be used to teach wise lessons, Yogi is a great example,” Merritt said.
 
Funeral services will be held Sept. 29 for Berra, who once said, “You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/28/2015 12:25:39 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Small church beacon of hope amid California fires

September 28 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Lord is using Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) to share the gospel in a tangible way among the survivors of California wildfires that have killed six people and burned more than 150,000 acres of land, said pastor Michael Ent.
 
The largest of two fires currently threatening populated communities, the Valley Fire, seemingly parted as it neared Ent’s pastorate, First Baptist Church in Middletown, sparing the two-story wooden building. The church’s membership of 40 is using the experience to encourage fellow survivors.
 
“We’re all survivors honestly,” Ent said. “Every one of us is blessed because the loss of life is so minimal. So in that respect we all recognize we’re going through this together, whether our structures are standing or not.”
 
A Middletown community member who was suffering from survivor guilt, as her home was spared, came to realize that her home was left standing as a blessing to the community, not her alone, Ent said.

 
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Church photo
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers at First Baptist Church in Middletown, Calif., received a shipment of new clothes from Dignity U Wear for survivors of the Valley Fire in Southern Lake County.

“It dawned on her that the value of that property standing is not just for her. She knows that she’s going to get to use her house and her household, her home, to honor the Lord. And that’s what happening,” Ent said. “But we’ve been kind of hearing some miraculous reports about some of our membership who, their home is still there. It’s kind of like the church building. Everything around the home is burned to a crisp and their home is standing.
 
“I don’t know what the rhyme or the reason is, but the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. That’s where we are and we’re giving God the glory for our property being there. And it’s pretty clear to us we get to use it for His glory. And what a privilege that is.”
 
First Baptist Church is using its lot to host shower and laundry units, and a kitchen that may serve up to 5,000 or 10,000 meals a day for survivors of the Valley Fire, said California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Ministries (CSBDRM) Coordinator Don Hargis.
 
The Valley Fire has killed four people and injured four firefighters, has destroyed 1,910 structures, and although it is 90 percent contained as of Sept. 25, is still threatening 2,953 structures, according to a Cal Fire Department of Forestry and Fire Protection incident report.
 
Other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units are serving survivors of the smaller fire, the Butte Fire in Amador & Calaveras Counties, with a kitchen serving 2,500 meals a day in San Andreas. Nearby Glory Bound Fellowship (Southern Baptist), a county designated evacuation center in Burson, is hosting a laundry unit from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and a shower unit. Glory Bound is serving as a distribution site and shelter, where many of the meals being prepared in San Andreas are being served, Hargis said.

 
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Church photo
The Valley Fire in Southern Lake County, Calif., burned 75,781 acres, but the flames went around First Baptist Church of Middletown, Calif., sparing the two-story wooden structure from damage.

The Butte Fire has killed two civilians and injured another, has destroyed 475 residences and 343 outbuildings, and has burned 70,868 acres, according to Cal Fire figures. While the fire was 93 percent contained as of today, it is still threatening 6,400 structures, Cal Fire said.
 
More than 25 Southern Baptist volunteers are working at each of the churches serving survivors, Hargis said. And those numbers will increase, he noted, as SBDR units are able to help homeowners clean their lots after the fires are totally extinguished.
 
Survivors are said to be in good spirits.
 
“Their mood is high because they’re getting a lot of help, not so much attention, just help,” Hargis said. “It’s very constant. So there’s a lot of encouragement.”
 
Supplies including water and clothing are plentiful. Glory Bound Fellowship was no longer taking donations of clothing and supplies, but distributing those already received from within and outside the county, according to the church website.
 
Chaplains are at both church disaster relief sites, Hargis said, and all volunteers are trained witnesses.
 
“We just want to be a witness. We want to be a witness to these survivors who have lost a lot. We want to help them to begin a new normal in many cases, because their old lives could be just ended and now they need a new normal,” Hargis said. “Those are things we want to try and help them to do by accepting Christ if they don’t know Him, or by increasing their faith in Christ if they do know Him.”
 
As first responders and other volunteers leave, Ent said, monetary donations will be needed to continue to help survivors. Donations to CSBDRM may be made online at public.serviceu.com. Checks made payable to the California Southern Baptist Convention and noted for Disaster Relief can be sent to 678 E. Shaw, Fresno CA 93710. Donations go toward helping volunteers with travel and meals, and assessment and cleanup of destroyed properties.
 
Hargis is also requesting prayer, as is Ent, whose church had been praying Ephesians 3:20-21 when the Butte Fire began Sept. 9, and the Valley Fire Sept. 12.
 
“Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray,” Ent said. “That would be the first 10 requests I would make, because we have been praying that God would move in our town in a big way. We’ve been praying Ephesians 3:20 and 21. I don’t think we were quite anticipating something like this. But God certainly, in the aftermath we’re seeing His presence working in and through us just in keepiing with Ephesians 3:20. We’re begging God to move.”
 
Specifically, believers can pray that the church and volunteers would be good listeners and have clarity in moments when they’re called on to share God’s word, Ent said. Such a tragedy can open survivors’ hearts to the gospel, he said.
 
“People are done with their own sovereignty and they’re willing to look at and consider someone who’s stronger than them and that’s clearly the Lord,” Ent said. “We’re praying for revival. [That] the Lord would use this to just win people to Him, and to allow us to be a part of it is just such an honor.”
 
To volunteer call (559) 256-0855.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

9/28/2015 12:15:55 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Nevada Baptists unify in missions sacrifice

September 28 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

It was no accident that the Nevada Baptist Convention increased its Cooperative Program (CP) percentage to 50 percent last fall of the offerings received from the 200 Southern Baptist churches in the state.
 
“I’m excited to say we’re in the game,” said Kevin White, the convention’s executive director since 2012 in the state he calls home. “The Cooperative Program enables us to be a part of the grand scheme of God to reach lost people for Him,” joining with other Southern Baptists to support state, national and international ministries and missions.
 
“God has called us to give all we can for His glory and His Kingdom,” White said of the increase to 50 percent in one year from the previous 35.75 percent allocation. “We’re giving it with a smile and leap in our heart for the Kingdom of God.”
 
The Nevada Baptist Convention has increased its Cooperative Program giving nearly every year since it was organized in 1979 with 74 congregations. In its first year, Nevada kept 90 percent of CP dollars to help grow the state convention and sent on 10 percent for national and international causes.
 
But the vision of early-day leaders was to continually increase Nevada’s CP giving, as evidenced by records showing sometimes the year-by-year increase was as little as a quarter of a percent, and sometimes an increase of 2 to 5 percent was made to “catch up” on years with a smaller or no increase. Within 36 years – by 2014 – the CP percentage leaving Nevada had grown to 35.75.
 

Pastors across the state had become impatient.

“When we talk about Cooperative Program giving, in most of our churches – particularly our churches in the West – the average person sitting in a pew or a seat does not comprehend that most of the money stays in the state,” said Michael Rochelle, pastor of Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas, where about 3,000 people participate each week in Sunday morning worship. “Most people think it all goes to missions in America and around the world.”
 
For every $100 a church gives through the Cooperative Program in a state that sends 35 percent of every CP dollar to national and international causes, only a few cents above $17.50 goes to international causes, part of which includes the International Mission Board (IMB) infrastructure, Rochelle said.
 
(Under the 2014-15 Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program Allocation Budget projection of $188 million, 50.41 percent supports nearly 4,800 overseas personnel with the IMB, 22.79 percent supports North American evangelism and church planting through North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent helps provide low-cost ministerial preparation through the SBC’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent supports the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent promotes biblical morality and religious freedom through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)
 
“Splitting Cooperative Program giving 50/50 between state conventions and national/international causes is the right thing to do,” said Rochelle, pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in Nevada. He was on the state’s Restructuring Task Force started by former Executive Director Thane Barnes, who returned to the pastorate in 2010.
 
Led by the task force, messengers to the 2010 annual meeting voted to increase the Cooperative Program percentage by five points each year until there was a 50/50 allocation – despite an economy that had collapsed, with 14.5 percent unemployment statewide. Las Vegas had the largest number of foreclosures per capita in the nation for 30 consecutive months; Reno was a close second. CP receipts, meanwhile, had dropped by 20 percent over the previous three years.
 
“There are those of us in Nevada who do not want to be the mission; we want to be on mission,” Hoyt Savage, pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Las Vegas and chairman of the Restructuring Task Force, said in a September 2010 article in Baptist Press.
 
“It was out of the box; it’s painful,” Savage continued. “But we want to not only survive; we want to thrive. … We believed we could count on our churches, and we have to plan for that.”
 
The increase in the CP percentage leaving Nevada wasn’t implemented during the transition between executive directors. Unity across the state was broken as some advocated protection of CP dollars to maintain ministries in Nevada while others wanted to adhere to the 2010 vote of messengers.
 
“Having watched our state convention for 29 years as pastor of Shadow Hills and having grown up in Nevada, I have a great investment in the state,” Rochelle said. “When we were sending out of the state less than 30 percent of our CP dollars [prior to 2013], we were not getting the best return on our investment in Nevada missions.
 
“Some of us are going to answer for that,” said the Shadow Hills pastor, who led his church to send most of its CP dollars directly to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Others did likewise. The state convention’s finances dropped 40 percent and fellowship had seriously eroded by the time Kevin White became the executive director in 2012.
 
White had been a Nevada resident since he was 3 and, following his self-taught father’s lead, a bivocational church planter/pastor in Nevada until he went to Longview, Wash., in 1994 to go to the Pacific Northwest Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He had heard of the turmoil and twice turned down an invitation to interview for the state convention’s top position.
 
“But I became brokenhearted for Nevada and the memories I had from growing up here and spending my first 10 years of ministry here,” White said. “This [turmoil] was far from what I remembered.... Back then our annual convention was a wonderful gathering for pastors to reconnect and discuss what God was doing in each region of this state. Now battle lines were drawn and the convention was crumbling.
 
“I began to relate to Nehemiah and his broken heart over the news of the destruction of Jerusalem,” White continued. He read Nehemiah to get a word from God and in Nehemiah 2:5 he heard it in the prophet’s yearning to go to the city “where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it” (HCSB).
 
“I began to cry uncontrollably as I began to think of my father and other faithful heroes who planted churches across Nevada and have since gone to glory,” White said. “It was this verse that I feel God used to return me to Nevada where my ancestors are buried, and rebuild.”
 
He started by listening to pastors who felt they hadn’t been heard as positions had become more polarized. This included a two-hour listening session at Shadow Hills Church, at the end of which Rochelle gave White five checks, each for $17,500, to show his renewed support for the Nevada Baptist Convention.
 
“I knew Kevin, knew his heart for the Cooperative Program, and I had a lot of confidence in him,” Rochelle said. “I’ve never been so proud of my state convention as I was the day we voted last October to immediately move to a 50/50 split in our CP giving.”
 
As a result of White’s trust-building listening sessions with pastors, church planting and church revitalization became the state convention’s main focus. The convention has been pared its staff by 10 from a high of 13. Fewer dollars are spent on events, with associations and the state convention now sharing training opportunities.
 
In addition to good financial and personnel stewardship, income has rebounded in each of the last three years. “I came, and God has just given,” White said. “As people started seeing the fruit, they began giving again.
 
“I believe the Cooperative Program is the most missional thing Southern Baptists have,” the executive director continued. “We’re trying to do more with less so we can be faithful in giving to needs around the world. Our God is a lot bigger than I am and His world is a lot bigger than Nevada.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
 

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Gold miner’s turn to faith still stirs his son

9/28/2015 11:56:46 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gold miner’s turn to faith still stirs his son

September 28 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

LaVern Inzer, a missionary in the 1960s supported by Southern Baptists, led a gold miner to Christ in Nevada – a moment that continues to change peoples’ lives.
 
Kevin White – the son of the gold miner Inzer led to the Lord in 1968 – is executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention, which has increased its Cooperative Program (CP) giving for Southern Baptist missions and ministry from 35 percent to 50 percent of CP gifts from its approximately 200 churches.

 
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Submitted photo
Tom and Donna White, with their children, the day they surrendered their lives to Christ in 1968.

“The Cooperative Program is doing the same thing today as it did when I was a kid,” White said. “It’s reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ who wouldn’t be reached otherwise.
 
“The Cooperative Program means something to me personally because it’s directly related to the salvation of not only me, but my mother and my father and my brother and my sister,” White said. “I believe if more leaders – pastors – within our convention had been reached through Cooperative Program missionary efforts as my family was, they would see the value of CP and strive to lead their church to participate wholeheartedly.”
 
White’s CP journey reflects the decades-long missions impact of the way Southern Baptists work together to expand God’s Kingdom in their states and across the world.
 
White’s journey started before he was born, when Inzer in 1959 was sent by Southern Baptists as a “mountain missionary” to start churches in northern Nevada. Inzer ministered to people as he found them, in gambling towns, Indian reservations and open desert lands.
 
Inzer found Tom White in a gold-mining town and nurtured a relationship in which the grizzled gold miner opened up to the missionary when cancer was diagnosed in White’s firstborn son.

 
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Submitted photo
Kevin White of the Nevada Baptist Convention recounts that this photo was taken of him as a 4-year-old during the time that Southern Baptist-supported missionary LaVern Inzer “came to our house and I first was able to go to church.”

Tom White, who had heard of God when he was a child in Colorado, but nothing since, prayed for God to take him and not his 7-year-old son. No response. He bargained: If God would heal his son, he’d serve God. No response. Bolstered by his continuing friendship with Inzer and broken by his need, White surrendered: Whether his son lived or died, he would serve God forever, he told God in 1968.
 
Rusty White lived cancer-free for the next 38 years, but as a result of the heavy medication he received as a child to fight the cancer, his blood vessels began to collapse, causing strokes at the age of 38. He was 41 when he died.
 
Tom White, discipled by Inzer, was called to the gospel ministry and planted at least five churches in the last three decades of the 20th century. Each of those churches remain solid supporters of the Cooperative Program stemming from what they were taught by the former gold miner, who in time had received some CP assistance to help in a ministry he was undertaking to Native Americans in Nevada.
 
“It wasn’t much, but it helped put food on the table,” Kevin White recalled. “The value of the Cooperative Program is that it keeps us from thinking just about ourselves and our little projects. I’ve never been to China, but I’m helping someone in China.”
 
Kevin White’s CP journey illustrates the outward-stretching effects of giving to missions through the Cooperative Program.
 

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Submitted photo
Kevin White was a bivocational pastor, like his father, in his early ministry. Here he is baptizing a new believer in Nevada’s Owyhee River on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation where he and his wife were planting a church from 1986-89.

He saw the change in his dad, who could “cuss the wallpaper off the wall,” who became a self-taught church planter with an extensive Christian library. He learned from and later followed in the footsteps of his dad, becoming a bivocational gold miner who planted two churches, both of which also remain solid supporters of the Cooperative Program, as a young Kevin White taught them.
 
“My dad was so grateful for the Cooperative Program reaching us,” Kevin White said. A month after the younger White launched into an outreach on an Indian reservation, his father asked, “How much are you giving to CP? If you don’t start day one, they won’t know the value of others giving to Christ.”
 
“My dad really believed in the CP system,” Kevin White continued. “It was an honor to him to be able to give. … All of that has patterned my conviction to give to missions through the Cooperative Program.”
 
Kevin White’s call to the pastorate had come when he was 18. His dad had sent him to a preaching point one Sunday, and “I preached the worst sermon in the history of the earth. I read a Sunday School quarterly to the 10 people who were there and I was scared to death.
 
“At the end, a man came up and said, ‘I want to give my life to Jesus Christ,’” White recounted. “While driving home on a 55-mile dirt road, I remember saying to God, ‘If You can take that kind of message and use it to reach somebody for salvation, sign me up. Whatever You want me to do, I’m surrendering.”

 
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Kevin White, executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention: “The Cooperative Program means something to me personally because it’s directly related to the salvation of not only me, but my mother and my father and my brother and my sister.”

For three years – 1986-89 – Kevin and DeeEdrah White drove 260 miles one way each weekend to start and grow Owyhee (Nev.) Baptist Church on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation near the Idaho border.
 
“We slept in the double-wide trailer we used for the church,” White said. “No water, no electricity, two kids potty trained in an outhouse, and we slept around an old potbellied stove. … We just knew God wanted us to go there.”
 
They followed that with five years restarting First Baptist Church in Fernley, Nev., before taking the established First Baptist Church in Longview, Wash., so White could receive seminary training at the Pacific Northwest campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The Longview church increased its CP giving to 17 percent during his 18-year tenure there.
 
Kevin White’s firstborn son, as a missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, now helps Baptist believers in southern Asia plant churches. When on stateside assignment, he speaks in churches, encouraging them to increase their CP giving so people across the world can give their lives to God’s Kingdom work.
 
“We need to give [to missions through the Cooperative Program] so the next Kevin White and Tom White can hear about Jesus Christ,” the Nevada executive director said.
 
“I can picture some skinny little kid somewhere, here in the States and in Africa and Asia, taking to heart what some CP-supported missionary says, giving their lives to Jesus, and 10 to 20 years from now they’ll be starting churches that bring more people to Christ.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

 

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Nevada Baptists unify in missions sacrifice

9/28/2015 11:40:18 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mohler: Pope’s address sets ‘dangerous precedent’

September 25 2015 by Andrew J.W. Smith and James A. Smith Sr., SBTS Communications

Pope Francis’ extraordinary address before a joint session of Congress sets a “very, very, dangerous precedent,” said Southern Baptist leader R. Albert Mohler Jr. in a live Sept. 21 interview on CNN.
 
“No pope of the Roman Catholic Church has ever addressed a joint session of the Congress before, and for good reason,” Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told “Newsroom” anchor Carol Costello.
 
In addition to the live interview, CNN also noted Mohler’s concerns from a previously recorded interview with Costello in reports that aired on “Newsroom” on Sept. 22 and “AC360” on Sept. 23. The pope addressed Congress on Sept. 24.
 
Mohler argued the pope was invited to speak before Congress because of his religious leadership, not his political headship over the extremely small Vatican state.

 
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Screenshot of R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s Sept. 23 appearance on the CNN program “AC360.”

“Why would the Congress of the United States join in a joint session to hear one head of one religious group?” Mohler said. “I think it's a very, very dangerous precedent.”
 
Mohler said the Vatican is not “really recognized because it’s a state. ... It’s because he’s the head of the Roman Catholic Church. And when you put it that way, the pretense that this is somehow a diplomatic visit really falls apart.”
 
Beyond Francis himself, Mohler said his deeper concerns are about the papal office.
 
“As an evangelical, my problem is not with this pope first and foremost; that’s a Catholic problem,” he said. “My problem is with the papacy, and the evangelical concerns about the papacy, as you know, go all the way back to the Reformation.”
 
The papal visit to Congress suggests Francis, perhaps the world’s most influential religious leader, carries more political weight than is appropriate, Mohler said.
 
“As an evangelical I'm very concerned that ... the head of a church is being recognized as a head of state and accorded the kind of influence that would normally come from an elected head of government,” he said.
 
Since Francis’ election in 2013, according to Mohler, “the pope has raised all kinds of expectations” for a “major liberal transformation of the church. And, frankly, I think that’s probably his agenda.”
 
Concerning the debate within Catholicism, Mohler said, “It's a fascinating discussion inside Catholicism to watch. And any of us looking into that conversation recognize, you've got warring visions of both who Pope Francis is and who many want him to be.”
 
Although official Catholic teaching has not changed, Mohler said Francis has “sent signals” of change on various political issues.
 
In Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, Mohler said the pope “veers far to the left” on economics and climate change in a document that was thoroughly political.
 
Citing political commentator George Will in a recent Washington Post column, Mohler noted the pope’s leftist solutions may not actually work. If the pope truly wants to help the poor and expand the middle class, Mohler noted, he will have to do it in ways that “lead to human flourishing.”
 
“The policies that he both implies and calls for in that encyclical are, frankly, not going to head in that direction and they haven't anywhere in the world where they have been tried,” Mohler said.
 
In a Sept. 25 edition of his podcast, The Briefing, Mohler strongly criticized the substance of Pope Francis’ address to Congress, particularly noting that the pontiff never mentioned Jesus, nor abortion or gay marriage.
 
Mohler said the pope’s address to Congress “decidedly answered” the question whether he “would lean left.”
 
“In many ways, the pope’s appearance before Congress yesterday must send a very clear signal to conservative Catholics that they have faced exactly what they feared, a pope who is not only leaning left, but is going to take the Roman Catholic Church to the left with him,” Mohler said.
 
Failing to mention explicitly the defense of unborn human life and to define marriage in any specificity, the pope “let his priorities be clearly known and those priorities are the ones that in terms of the political spectrum undeniably lean left.”
 
The pope’s “signals of leaning left” in his priorities will eventually require a change in the substance of the Catholic Church’s teachings, Mohler said.
 
Mohler also expressed concern for evangelicals who are attracted to Francis’ apparently more “pietistic than doctrinal” approach to Christian theology.
 
The attraction in this approach, according to Mohler is that, “It represents an opportunity to avoid having to get to the hard edges of Christian truth. It is an intentional effort to avoid a direct confrontation with the secularizing culture. It is an effort to try to get along in terms of this moral revolution, not so much at this point by changing the teachings of his church, but by soft peddling them or in the case of his address to Congress not even mentioning them.”

9/25/2015 3:40:51 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith and James A. Smith Sr., SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Black church conf. addresses ‘biblical sexuality’

September 25 2015 by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder staff

“The sexual revolution in the black church” was among the topics addressed at a Louisville, Ky., symposium on “Biblical Sexuality in the Black Church.”
 
More than 400 people gathered for the Sept. 19 sessions at Forest Baptist Church, where several Southern Baptists made presentations. Among them were symposium organizer Joel Bowman, pastor of Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, and Curtis Woods, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s associate executive director for convention relations.
 
“The overarching purpose [of the symposium] is to equip African American pastors and churches with information about a biblical worldview pertaining to sexuality and how to communicate the same to the congregations that we serve,” Bowman said, calling the event a “historical moment in the African American church in Louisville.”

 
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Photo by Myriah Snyder
Curtis Woods of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Louisville pastor Joel Bowman share insights during a panel discussion at the "Biblical Sexuality in the Black Church” symposium.

Bowman, founder of African Americans for Biblical Authority, said it has been a “passion of mine to communicate very specifically and poignantly about sex and sexuality because I think the church has been woefully negligent in that regard.”
 
He added, “I have observed over time a very disturbing trend amongst very powerful and influential Christian leaders to compromise the truth of God’s Word. I think a lot of the fallacious teaching we’re hearing about sex, and most notably homosexuality, is rooted in preachers, pastors and church leaders not respecting what the Bible is.”
 
Christians must not “use the Bible to say what we want it to say,” Bowman said. “God never intended the scriptures to do that.”
 
Though the conference focused on biblical sexual morality in an African American church context, conference organizers did not intend to “pathologize the black church as though it were morally insufficient,” Bowman said. “In all fairness to the historically black church, this is a universal problem.”
 
Woods’ presentation addressed “the sexual revolution in the black church” from a theological and historical perspective.
 
“The problem is, beloved, that our people have set their affections on the things below,” Woods said. “And once your affections are set on the things below, and you’re not consistently looking up, then what you will discover is that everything around you will become misconstrued.”

 
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Photo by Myriah Snyder
A broad range of speakers were featured in the day-long “Biblical Sexuality in the Black Church” symposium Sept. 19 in Louisville, Ky.

He continued, “If we do not understand how God is working in human history to bring all things together summed up in the Son, then you will approach the issue of human sexuality first from the horizontal perspective as opposed to a vertical perspective.”
 
The adjective “biblical” is an important preface to the term “sexuality,” Woods said, “because once the Bible is closed, then all bets are off concerning having the right idea about sexuality.”
 
Woods acknowledged “brokenness” in African American culture related to sexuality and said at least some of it is related to the “ugly past” of slavery.
 
African American churches historically have confronted such brokenness with the truth of Scripture, Woods said. However, “now all of the sudden, we close our Bibles and allow civil authorities to help us to define how we understand sexuality.
 
“May it never be that we allow culture above Christ,” Woods concluded.
 
Aquenna Smith of Chicago presented on “a biblical approach to homosexuality and the LGTBQ community” and shared her own struggle with same-sex attraction. Reading an allegorical poem, she underscored the importance of biblical community and encouragement in ministry to those with same-sex attraction.
 
Similarly, Daniel Mingo of Louisville spoke of his experience “coming out of homosexuality.” He gave his testimony and shared about his ministry to others who find themselves struggling with homosexuality.

 
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Photo by Myriah Snyder
Louisville pastor Joel Bowman, organizer of the “Biblical Sexuality in the Black Church” symposium, addresses the Sept. 19 gathering.

Jamaal Williams, pastor of Forest Baptist Church, the host congregation, spoke on “sexual abstinence outside of marriage.”
 
He asked the audience to think of sexual abstinence discussions they have had and noted that the gospel is missing from most such talks. “A gospel-centered sex talk centers on the salvific acts of God through Christ,” he said.
 
Christ, Williams said, “has rights to your body, not you. Sexual immorality is self-worship.”
 
He concluded with a reminder to “look less at ourselves and more at Him.”
 
Bowman addressed “poison in the pews: pornography in the black church.” He called pornography “more dangerous to the cause of Christ than homosexuality.”
 
Bowman celebrated his own deliverance from porn addiction years ago.
 
“I thank God that even though I was addicted to porn, for the last 12 going on 13 years, I have been free from that addiction,” Bowman said.
 
“There is healing in the name of Jesus. There is deliverance. There’s freedom. ‘Whom the Son sets free is free indeed,’“ Bowman concluded, citing John 8:36.
 
Other topics addressed were “a biblical view of cohabitation” by Victor Sholar, pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and “a biblical response to sexual abuse and exploitation” by Billy Jenkins, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Ky.
 
The symposium also included three panels covering various topics and questions submitted by attendees online.
 
“We want to apply the authority of scripture to overall issues, be it sexuality or any other topic,” Bowman said. “All issues might be very unique and distinct, but the one thing I think ties our approach to all of them together is our presuppositional position that the Bible is the Word of God.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Myriah Snyder is a newswriter for the Western Recorder at westernrecorder.org, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

9/25/2015 12:17:35 PM by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder staff | with 0 comments



Obama urged to press China on rights

September 25 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Representatives of diverse faith groups have called on President Barack Obama to press Xi Jinping on religious and other human rights issues during the Chinese president’s visit to the United States capitol.
 
Xi will be in Washington for a White House state visit Sept. 24 and Sept. 25. His visit will culminate in a state dinner in his honor. Some human rights proponents have criticized the Obama administration’s decision to grant Xi a state visit.
 
In less than three years as head of the Communist Party that rules the world’s most populous country, Xi has overseen a repressive campaign against Christians and other religious adherents that close observers say has been unrivaled in China since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s.

 
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Xi Jinping

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said on the eve of Xi’s visit, “China’s government, both past and present, has a well-documented history of trespassing on the religious liberty of its citizens. The United States must be crystal clear that freedom of conscience is a fundamental human rights issue.”
 
He is pleading with the president and Secretary of State John Kerry “to make the religious freedom of our Chinese neighbors, including millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, an urgent point of leadership within the international community,” Moore said.
 
Christian, Buddhist and Muslim leaders gathered at a Capitol Hill news conference Sept. 23 to urge Obama to raise human rights issues in his meetings with Xi.
 
Obama “can forcefully, strongly take up the cause of religious practitioners” in China, said Bhuchung Tsering, vice president of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), at the news conference.
 
“Religious freedom is fundamental to American values,” he said. “It’s part of the American DNA.”
 
The Obama administration should raise human rights every time it engages China and in every forum, whether public or private, said Kody Kness, vice president of China Aid. “I don’t think we do that enough.”
 
Tina Mufford, policy analyst for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said, “If we can’t say these things now when [Xi] is in our backyard, when can we?”
 
Speaking through an interpreter, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, told reporters and others at the news conference, “If President Obama and his administration do not raise the human rights violations and the religious repression of all ethnic and religious groups under the rule of Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, then Xi Jinping will see the silence of the U.S. as agreement” with maintaining the persecution.
 
China Aid is a Christian organization based in the United States that promotes religious freedom and serves the persecuted church in the Asian country. ICT and the World Uyghur Congress advocate for Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims, respectively, in China. All the religious groups have prisoners of conscience in China, Kness said.
 
The last 18 months of Xi’s regime have been especially repressive, the religious freedom proponents said. Among indications of the crackdown:

  • More than 1,500 crosses on church buildings or churches have been destroyed;

  • Government-registered churches have been closed and members arrested;

  • About 250 lawyers were arrested in July alone.

In addition, thousands of religious adherents have been imprisoned and some killed extrajudicially.
 
During Xi’s nearly three years as president, the number of “religious practitioners, civil society actors and dissidents that have been arrested, convicted and jailed far exceeds the number” during the 10-year rule of Hu Jintao, the previous Chinese president, Kness said.
 
The Obama administration could call for the following actions by the Chinese government that would aid religious adherents in that country, Kness said:

  • The immediate release of prisoners of conscience;

  • The ending of the religious registration process;

  • The shutting down of black jails, China’s extra-legal, secret detention centers.

Other speakers at the news conference were Jonathan Liu, a house church pastor who formerly served as pastor of a registered church, and Guo Baosheng, a house church pastor in exile who was imprisoned in China for four years.
 
The organizations are uniting with other human rights advocates for a mid-day rally outside the White House Sept. 25.
 
The U.S. State Department has designated China as one of its “countries of particular concern,” a category reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious liberty.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

9/25/2015 12:09:45 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Student-led prayer day continues strong run

September 25 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The student-led See You at the Pole prayer initiative drew more than 1 million students globally in prayer at schools on the event’s 25th anniversary Sept. 23.
 
While exact numbers have not been tabulated of those who gathered to pray, See You at the Pole (SYATP) has continued to grow since its 1990 birth with a handful of students in Texas. Students gathered in prayer at 7 a.m. local time around flag poles and other locations at public and private schools in the U.S. and foreign countries, event promoters said.

 
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These students are among about 1 million who prayed on school grounds Sept. 23 for the 25th annual See You at the Pole student-led prayer initiative.

“It appears that every state had participants, and we have multiple reports so far from South Korea, Australia, Philippines, Canada and the Dominican Republic outside this country,” said Doug Clark, national field director of event promoter National Network of Youth. “In 25 years since SYATP was first done nationally, 52 countries have participated one or more times.”
 
United is this year’s theme, drawn from Acts 1:14 and focused on encouraging “students at the beginning of the school year to do the first, best thing to reach out to their peers – by praying for them,” said Daryl Nuss, National Network of Youth executive director.
 
As the Southern Baptist Convention focuses the next great awakening, Clark agreed prayer among students could certainly spur revival.
 
“Making prayer the first thing we encourage students to do as they reach out to their schools is consistent with how God has ignited times of awakening in the past, with young people at the vanguard of revivals, committing to extraordinary prayer,” Clark said. “We don’t know if spiritual awakening is on God’s timetable for our nation right now, but we must do what always precipitates revival: pray. Scriptures like 2 Chronicles 7:14 are particularly relevant for our culture at this point in our history.”
 
This marks the third year the event was held in conjunction with Global Week of Student Prayer, Sept. 20-26, allowing more student participation and accommodating diverse school schedules in the U.S. and other countries.
 
“It seems clear to us that God is not finished with See You at the Pole yet, but is still calling students by His Spirit to do the best, first thing they can do to reach out to their peers by praying for them,” Clark said. “The ‘gut feeling’ of those of us who have been involved with SYATP for 25 years is that there is a growing interest by younger youth leaders to call their students to pray, and use SYATP specifically as a way to launch that on their campuses. We are encouraged.”
 
There were nearly 20,000 posts using #syatp on Instagram, and related Facebook and Twitter accounts were also active, Clark said. Participants range in age groups from early childhood to senior adults, with the bulk of participants in middle and high school. Each year, more and more elementary students participate, he said.
 
“I am always amazed at the courage of students who pray alone,” Clark said. “You can see photos of some of them on the Facebook page.”
 
The annual SYATP event grew out of a 1990 DiscipleNow weekend, when a small group of students prayed at flagpoles at different schools on a Saturday night. Inspired by the small event, youth leaders across Texas organized SYATP in 1990 and drew 45,000 students to prayer meetings in four states. By the next year, an estimated 1 million students gathered in prayer at flagpoles across the nation, according to the SYATP website.
 
The event does not violate laws against prayer in schools, as all prayer is student-led, before school hours and outside of any school building, according to the SYATP website. But the site encourages students to pray off campus if school administrators object to the event.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

9/25/2015 12:05:58 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Floyd, Blackaby visit Northeastern Baptist College

September 25 2015 by Sarah Carr, NEBC Communications/Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and author Richard Blackaby visited Northeastern Baptist College (NEBC) during the mid-September meeting of the college’s trustees.
 
Trustees approved a double major option for NEBC students during their Sept. 14-15 sessions at the campus in Bennington, Vt., and they heard reports of enrollment gains and of the college’s student housing being at capacity.
 
“Our meeting was filled with multiple positive reports of spiritual, financial and numerical growth,” trustee chairman Timothy Christian said.
 
“Those of us who invested in this school from the beginning are humbled to see God doing amazing things in and through Northeastern, things that many thought were impossible,” said Christian, professor of evangelism and theology at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.

 
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Facebook photo
Richard Blackaby at NEBC chapel service
 

Floyd exhorted a Tuesday chapel audience that now is the time to make a difference in reaching the world for Christ. On Thursday, Richard Blackaby addressed the difference between empty words and the words of God.
 
Both men took note of the key role NEBC is playing in the Northeast.
 
“If we are going to reach America for Christ, at least 20 percent of the American population lives within a six-hour reach of Northeastern Baptist College,” said Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
 
“Emerging in one of America’s most liberal states, a new college is rising that wants to do all they can do to help prepare God-called leaders and laypeople to reach the Northeast for Christ,” Floyd said.
 
For Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International, the visit to NEBC was reminiscent of the past. “Seeing Northeastern Baptist College reminded me so much of what my father Henry experienced in Canada,” he said. “It is a desperate mission field in great need of pastors and Christian leaders.”
 
Two new trustees were present: Stephen Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and Doug Echols, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown, Va.
 
Rummage and Echols are “extremely busy pastors,” Christian said, “but they saw the value of investing their time, prayers, money and mission teams into multiplying the impact of Northeastern Baptist College.”
 
This summer, a team from the Virginia church that Echols leads renovated parts of NEBC’s Jehovah Jireh residence hall, with plans to finish renovations next summer. The residence hall, just blocks from the college’s Hogue Library in downtown Bennington, is currently at full capacity.
 
Full housing is a reflection of the growth reported during the trustee meeting. Enrollment now stands at 59 students, with a 44 percent increase in full-time students since the 2014 fall semester.
 
As more students enroll, the college is widening its geographical reach. NEBC students now represent 14 states: New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, New Hampshire, Connecticut, South Carolina, Alabama, Illinois and Michigan.
 
Accordingly, academic options at NEBC continue to increase. Following the trustee vote, students now have the option to earn a double major.
 
Northeastern offers four undergraduate degrees: biblical studies, music ministry, Christian counseling and business administration. Within the bachelor of arts in biblical studies are four concentrations: church planting/entrepreneurial leadership, pastoral ministries, Christian education and interdisciplinary studies. The bachelor of arts in music ministry has three concentrations: voice, keyboarding and guitar; the bachelor of science in business administration also has three concentrations: entrepreneurial leadership, nonprofit business management and project management.
 
Enrollment gains also were reported in NEBC’s Early Scholars Program, a dual enrollment option for local high school students to earn college credit while working toward their high school diploma.
 
Oct. 28 will mark the two-year anniversary of President Mark Ballard’s inauguration and the six-year anniversary of his decision to follow God’s prompting to found a college in New England.
 
NEBC students, faculty, staff, trustees and visitors alike can see God at work. “The sense of excitement and mission is palpable,” Blackaby said. “I have no doubt that God will use the school mightily in the days to come.”
 
NEBC is online at www.nebcvt.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Carr is Northeastern Baptist College’s communications specialist. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.)

9/25/2015 11:59:30 AM by Sarah Carr, NEBC Communications/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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