September 2017

Students focus on life of Christ during summer youth weeks

September 6 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Thousands of students from across North Carolina celebrated Christmas and Easter all summer long at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell.

Contributed photo
Skits and games are just a small part of Youth Weeks each summer at Fort Caswell on Oak Island. This year, youth began each week with Christmas and ended the week looking at Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.


The celebrations were part of the worship services and other activities during this year’s summer youth weeks, sponsored by the youth evangelism and discipleship ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
 
The theme was “Way. Truth. Life.” based on John 14:6 which says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
 
“This year, we emphasized the importance of knowing the life of Christ and how we should follow Him,” said Merrie Johnson, senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship with the state convention, which is also known as BeDoTell.
 
Johnson has coordinated youth weeks at Caswell for the past 16 years.
 
“We started each week with Christmas because Jesus came to earth as a baby, and we concluded each week with Easter looking at what Christ’s death, burial and resurrection means and how it gives us hope,” Johnson said. “Exploring the life of Christ resonated big time with the students by helping them understand more of who Jesus is and gain clarity in the gospel.”
 
Throughout the week, campers examined various aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry through times of worship, biblical preaching, personal and small group devotions, drama, skits, games and more. In between the sessions devoted to Christ’s birth and resurrection, campers explored how Jesus faced temptation, how He meets our spiritual, physical and emotional needs, and what it means to genuinely follow Him.
 
Wes Hamilton, pastor of Hulen Street Church in Fort Worth, Texas, who served as the camp pastor during the final week of youth weeks, challenged campers to examine their hearts and called on them to make a firm commitment to Christ.
 
“Sometimes, it’s just easy to play the part of a Christian,” Hamilton said. “But at the heart of it, we have no real belief. We’re just playing a part, and there’s no real power.”
 
Throughout the summer, God moved in the lives of the more than 6,300 students from 263 different churches who attended one of the seven weeks of camp.
 
Johnson and her ministry team reported that a total of 321 students trusted Christ as Savior during youth weeks, and an additional 1,200 more rededicated their lives to Him. A little more than 100 others answered a call to full-time ministry.
 
Additionally, campers packaged a total of 285,000 meals throughout the summer and gave offerings totaling more than $67,000 that will go toward feeding hungry children in Haiti through Servants with a Heart, a ministry partner based in Charlotte.
 
On the concluding night of camp, Hamilton encouraged campers to “go home with purpose and intentionality” about sharing their faith with their friends.
 
All summer long, Johnson and her team encouraged students to host what they called a “hope party” during the weekend of Aug. 19. The goal of the parties was to challenge students to be intentional about sharing their faith and the hope they have in Christ, according to 1 Peter 3:15.
 
Johnson said she’s received reports of at least 50 parties that were held throughout the state.
 
The parties took on all forms, ranging from churchwide youth gatherings to small gatherings of friends.
 
No matter the size or the location, Johnson said the goal was the same at every party. “We wanted to challenge students to put a date on the calendar and be intentional about sharing their faith with their friends who don’t know Christ,” Johnson said.
 

9/6/2017 9:15:40 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



National CP 4.2% over YTD projection

September 6 2017 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee (EC) through 11 months of the current fiscal year are 4.20 percent above the year-to-date SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget projection, and are 0.77 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page.


The year-to-date total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of August and includes receipts from state conventions, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2016-17 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
 
As of August 31, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget through the first eleven months of the convention’s fiscal year (October to September) totaled $180,533,934.62. This total is $7,283,934.62 above the $173,250,000 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America, and is $1,372,917.27 more than the $179,161,017.35 received through the end of August 2016.
 
Designated giving of $186,843,284.86 for the same year-to-date period is 6.57 percent, or $13,146,533.06, below the $199,989,817.92 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the EC and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
 
August’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,030,281.75. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $5,560,936.66.
 
The convention-adopted CP Allocation Budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the convention’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive CP funding.
 
According to the 2016-2017 budget adopted by the SBC, if the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $189 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts of any overage and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
 
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single contribution to its state convention. State and regional Baptist conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention's annual budget. The totals in this report reflect only the SBC portion of CP receipts.
 
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their Cooperative Program contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of CP contributions to the EC.
 
Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.
 

9/6/2017 9:11:28 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Morganton church merger fuels missions

September 5 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Three years ago, Calvary Baptist Church in Morganton was a traditional church in decline and looking for a pastor. Nearby, Journey Church was a growing, contemporary church plant in search of adequate facilities.

Photo by Mark Steven Houser
When Summit Community Church formed in Morganton three years ago, it brought together a contemporary church (Journey Church) and a traditional church (Calvary Baptist Church). The new sign was placed on top of the old marquee, and a merger took place that is still bringing change to the community.


Mike Chandler, pastor of Journey Church, was leading a transition team of five church leaders to pray and study options for the right location. Nothing seemed to work in their favor.
 
“We looked at every single facility we could look at here in town,” Chandler said. “Either they weren’t available, they were way too expensive or there were too many obstacles in the way.”
 
After one of their meetings, he told Jerry Stephens, a founding lay leader of the church, that Calvary Baptist Church had been on his heart for several years. The church has a great location and good facilities, and everyone in the community knew it was struggling to survive.
 
Stephens said the same church building had been weighing on his mind, so he arranged a meeting with Calvary’s deacons, in an unofficial role, to offer an idea: would the church consider a merger?
 
“They thought we wanted to rent space,” Chandler explained. “When Jerry said we should consider a merger, they said, ‘What?’” But, the deacons opened up to the idea.
 
Calvary’s deacons began meeting with Journey’s transition team to “see where God might be in this whole merger idea.”
 
“In June of 2014 we decided to have a joint worship service and see what happens,” said Chandler. “We didn’t advertise it. We brought our portable sound system in Calvary’s worship facility, set it up and we packed out the place. That was on a Sunday night. To this day, it is one of the best experiences of my life.”
 
Journey averaged almost 300 people in morning worship and Calvary saw 60 worshipers on a given Sunday, yet the Sunday night “trial” service was filled with more than 400 people.
 
The following Wednesday night Calvary’s leaders held an open question and answer time.
 
“I didn’t know if we were going into a firing squad or what to expect,” Chandler said. “They asked legitimate questions and expressed concerns. One person spoke up and said they really liked the fact that there were children in the Sunday night service – something they had not seen in a long time.
 
“I asked them if they really, really loved the fact that children are attending. You have to really love children, because they are a great blessing, but along with that comes some headaches. You may have screaming, crying and messed-up walls. So, I asked them again, ‘Are you really glad they’re here?’ They said, ‘We’ve gone without laughter, kids and young families long enough. We will love it. We’re ready for it.’”
 

A new name

Photo by Mark Steven Houser
Pastor Mike Chandler loves Summit’s six-year partnership with Guatemala. In December, the church sent 450 backpacks loaded with supplies, and a truck for distributing food and water was shipped this month.


Journey’s transition team wanted to drop both churches’ names and rebrand with the new name, “Summit.”
 
Some of Calvary’s members did not want the name changed, Chandler said. But the potential conflict was disarmed when an older gentlemen stood up at the Q&A meeting and said, “I’ve been in this church since I was in the cradle, and I want to tell you something. The name on that sign does not matter. What matters is what’s happening in this church for the Kingdom of God. In fact, the name of this church has changed three or four times before it became Calvary.”
 
“They asked a lot of questions that we did not yet have answers for,” Chandler continued. “A godly woman said in a broken voice, ‘People, I want to tell you something. We’re asking questions that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things in God’s Kingdom. We have a group of men that God has given to lead us. Let’s quit questioning everything. Let’s trust God, and let these men lead like God’s called them to lead.’ The place broke out in applause.”
 
Calvary approved the merger in July 2014 with little opposition.
 
At the end of Journey’s morning service, the congregation waited to receive word of Calvary’s decision.
 
“Our people didn’t want to leave until they heard the results of the vote,” said Chandler. “We announced it to our people, and you would have thought we won the national championship. They were ecstatic.” Summit Community Church of Morganton was born.
 

The holdout

As Chandler worked with the leadership teams of both churches, he felt uneasy.
 
“I was the biggest holdout on agreeing to move into Calvary’s facilities,” he said. “Things were going so well for Journey. Set-up and take-down gets long every Sunday, but God was blessing us so much. I had to admit that I’d gotten comfortable.”
 
Chandler feared conflict around the way his congregation viewed their church. Journey was a younger, contemporary-looking church, meeting in a shopping center. But, they would be moving into a very traditional, dated building.
 
“But after we packed it out,” said Chandler, “I called some of our younger families to survey them. I said, ‘Tell me what you think about going into a place that’s dated, it’s got pews and stained glass windows – what do you think?’ Without fail, everyone said, ‘We couldn’t care less what that building looks like. What matters to us is what is happening inside the building.’”
 
That was reassuring to Chandler, but he was not completely convinced.
 
“I was still nervous because I had heard nothing but horror stories about church mergers and the battles that would ensue,” he said.
 
“I just didn’t want to go through that. Journey had such peace, and things were moving along in the church. I just didn’t want those battles.
 
“As I prayed about it, God said, ‘I called you to be a student pastor and you’ve moved three times. Have I ever let you down?’ No. ‘When I called you to South Carolina, did I let you down then?’ No. ‘I called you to Morganton to plant a church and you didn’t have a clue who would help you or where you were going to land. Did I let you down then?’ No. ‘So what’s the problem?’ After that, I said, ‘I’m on board. Let’s go.’”
 
Calvary was a traditional model with a 105-year history. Journey was a contemporary model with a five-year history. Chandler said, “I saw the potential clashes, but the clashes didn’t happen. A big part of that is because we bridged the merger with the statement, ‘We’re here to reach the next generation.’” That united both churches’ visions.
 
Another saying he repeats is “Trust and respect are built over time.”
 
“We had to earn their trust and respect. We’re walking in brand new, and we’re on their turf, so we’ve got to prove ourselves. We want to be patient, but keep progressing,” said Chandler. Three years later the statement is still written on a board in his office.
 
After months of renovations, Summit Church began on Oct. 5, 2014, with a classic worship service at 8:45 a.m., connect groups at 9:45 and contemporary worship at 11 a.m.
 
Chandler was shocked when he came into the worship center. “I walked out, and there were people standing in the lobby, standing in the aisles, every chair was filled, they were sitting on the steps in the balcony,” he said. “It was completely packed. It blew me away.”
 
Church leaders talked about starting a third service. Chandler was startled at the thought and made calls to leaders at LifeWay Christian Resources and pastors in other new churches.
 
The following Easter, Summit launched a third worship service. Today they are averaging 750 people for the year with 1,170 in attendance on Easter Sunday.
 

Multi-layered ministry

Ninety percent of the new attendees are unchurched. According to Chandler, most are “people who have never been in church a day in their life or church dropouts who got burned, but are willing to try again.”

Church members welcome outsiders. “Our church has a statement we live by – No perfect people allowed,” he said. “None of us are perfect, so when you walk in the door, you’re just one of us.”
 
Some of Calvary’s previous ministries, like Shepherd’s Kitchen, continue to serve the community. The kitchen opens every Monday night, providing clothing, groceries and a hot meal for 150-175 community residents. Recently launched ministries include one in public housing at the Andrade Community Center. On Wednesday nights during the school year, tutoring is provided, and local restaurants prepare a meal before games and activities.
 
“This has been a very rewarding ministry that is right in our back yard. I did not know this place existed before we got involved,” said Chandler.
 
The church partners with the city of Morganton for community events year-round. They wear T-shirts that read, “No perfect people allowed,” and engage in gospel conversations.
 
“We’re passionate about being very visible in our community,” Chandler said. “So, when our community has an event going on, we want to be involved.”
 
Chandler leads project coordination with World Changers every summer through LifeWay.
 
Summit has a six-year partnership in Guatemala that includes construction projects, meeting physical needs and gospel outreach. A large food truck was purchased and is being shipped this month. They delivered 450 backpacks to children in Guatemala last December.
 
Chandler is committed to serving in Guatemala. “I love going, and I need to go because that helps keep me focused on what’s really important – reaching people with the gospel. People matter. The gospel matters. If I don’t do this, I lose focus.”
 
The people in Summit Church want their story told. “We don’t want any glory or attention for Summit, but we want to encourage other churches,” said Chandler. “We want other churches to see that this thing is doable. Too many churches are dying, and they’re waiting for people to fill them.
 
“If more people in our churches put down our preferences and work together, we’ll see great things happen. Two totally different entities can come together. It can work. This has been a God thing, and He can do it in other churches, also.”

Related stories:
Two Morganton churches become one
 

9/5/2017 10:29:31 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



City Project sends students to make disciples

September 5 2017 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

Kirsten Ellis, a senior sports management major at High Point University, put her last summer of college on hold for whatever God wanted her to do, but that decision wasn’t easy. When she started attending Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, her freshman year, Ellis already felt called to spend that summer with City Project.

BR photo by Seth Brown
Courtney Homa, a student at Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, was part of a team serving in Bangkok, Thailand. City Project students spent the last two weeks of the summer getting a glimpse of God’s mission internationally.


Known for its intensive discipleship experience, City Project equips students to serve on mission locally, nationally and internationally.
 
“I kind of ignored it because it was my first time away from school, and I wanted to go home for the summer and work and be with my family,” Ellis said.
 
At home, she attended The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, where she met a student who was participating in The Summit’s City Project and listened to her experiences.
 
“It was extremely evident that the Lord was calling me to do that in the next summer,” she said.
 
Ellis spent her two remaining summers with Mercy Hill’s City Project. Mercy Hill is a church plant of The Summit and maintained The Summit’s original City Project structure.
 
City Project involves three parts, starting with one week of door-to-door evangelism in New York City. Over the following four weeks, students receive theological and missional training from Mercy Hill pastors and serve the Greensboro area through internships and working with ministry partners. They spend the last two weeks abroad, serving alongside international church planters and missionaries.
 
For Ellis, the week in New York was the hardest. In groups of about five, students engaged Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu households, offering prayer and leading gospel conversations. She said some were open to listening, while others were not.
 
“It sets the pace for the rest of your summer,” she said, “having your mindset focused on laying yourself down, laying your approval of man down from the start.”
 
It was worth it for Ellis, who saw four individuals come to Christ that week.
 
This being her second year with City Project, Ellis served in a leadership position. She helped lead a small group in Greensboro during the second portion of the summer and an international team in Bangkok, Thailand.
 
Paul Howington, Mercy Hill’s assimilation associate director, organized the Thailand team.
 
For two weeks, students worked at the Baptist Student Center in Bangkok, which offers English classes to Thai students and locals. “Bangkok is a very international city with lots of Western businesses. If you can speak English, it moves you up,” Howington said.
 
City Project students sat down and talked to Thai students every night to help them practice English.
 
“The intention was to ultimately share the gospel through these conversations,” he said. “If that happens, then we’re able to connect them with a Thai believer who works there.”
 
Howington said it typically takes at least seven conversations with Thais before they even consider putting their faith in Christ. Thai believers who volunteer at the center incorporate Bible stories into English lessons.
 
Howington doesn’t usually supervise City Project teams. A ministry resident with Mercy Hill was scheduled to go on the trip, but had to stay in Greensboro. Howington found out he was going to Thailand three weeks before the trip.
 
He valued the experience, especially as a pastor who doesn’t always get to work with college students.
 
“The biggest thing for me was watching college students get to share the gospel every night – I’d guess probably in two weeks, they shared the gospel over 200 times, making connections with Thais.

“We got probably 50 names for Thai believers to connect with. The idea is that we weren’t coming in to make a big impression by building something, but we made a bigger mark eternally by connecting people with Thai believers.”
 
Team assignments varied throughout the project.
 
On Thursdays, they partnered with Calvary Baptist Church in Bangkok by joining the refugee ministry team on visits to asylum seekers at Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Center. (See related story.)
 
Ellis recalled meeting a Christian man who fled religious persecution in his home country. During the hour they spent together, he talked about spending most days studying the Bible, worshiping and praying with other Christians in the group cell.
 
“He’s in such a terrible position, being detained for not having a visa but running from persecution,” Ellis said. “But he’s still so optimistic because he has the freedom of the gospel.”
 

Three-tier structure equips students for leadership

City Project aims to show students how their lives fit into God’s story, said Jon Sheets, Mercy Hill’s college ministry director. The three tiers “give them a glance at what’s happening globally in the mission of God. There’s a lot of overlap between what the team did in Bangkok and what they did in New York City. They’re still working with unreached people groups but in different contexts.
 
“In Greensboro, we’re training them for some stuff that’s coming up in the semester, so that they might be ready to reach their campus. … It’s how we view sending.”
 
City Project ultimately hopes to train students to make disciples that make disciples, said Sheets. Through intensive discipleship and training, leaders want to develop individuals who will move from being members to leaders themselves – like Ellis, who now leads a community group on campus.
 
“‘We don’t want a menu, we want to make a road map.’ That’s what we say,” Sheets said.
 
Among City Project veterans and graduates, several are now doing a two-year college residency with Mercy Hill. Some have committed to being journeymen with the International Mission Board. Some work with unreached people groups in Quebec through the North American Mission Board, while others have joined church planting teams in U.S. cities.
 
Ellis plans to return to Thailand, though she doesn’t yet know when or for how long. City Project, she said, expanded her heart for all parts of God’s mission, including where He has strategically placed her today.
 
“I’m on mission with college kids because that is where I’m at right now,” she said. “We never take a day off. We never rest because we aren’t international teaching unreached people groups about the Lord. Every day, every part of your life, if you’re a Christian, it’s what the Lord has called you to do.”
 

9/5/2017 10:19:52 AM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments



Jen Wilkin shares secret to raising ‘alien’ kids

September 5 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Jen Wilkin, author and director of adult classes for The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, spoke at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s 2017 National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., in a plenary session titled “How to Raise an Alien Child.” She sat for an interview with the Biblical Recorder to discuss the topic in detail.

ERLC photo by Kelly Hunter
Jen Wilkin, author and director of adult classes for The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, shares about handling alien children.


Below is an edited transcript of the conversation.
 
Q: What do you mean by alien?
 
A: The scriptures talk about how we are to live as aliens and strangers. There’s nothing about the way that Jesus describes the Christian life that would make us think a person who follows His instructions would not stand out in a crowd. If you really did what Jesus says in the “Sermon on the Mount,” you would not look like many people that you know.
 
When we think about our children, there is a very strong impulse for us to think about our experiences in middle school and remember feelings of wanting to fit in, and then superimpose our own fears onto our children. We then say, “How can I help this child feel like they belong, and be a part of everything that everyone else is doing?” The Christian life is not that. It is a series of decisions that make you feel increasingly at odds with this world and long for the next world. I believe there are implications for our parenting in that.
 
Q: Are you suggesting Christian children should be socially awkward?
 
A: Actually, no. I think we should be delightful people and fully orbed in our thinking, but we’re going to make different choices with our time. We’re going to make different choices about the way we spend our money – with entertainment. We’re going to make different choices than the people around us, even if it draws scrutiny.
 
I had a moment with my daughter when she was in middle school, where she came home sad about not having the newest whatever that people were wearing; everybody had this particular phone, and she didn’t have any phone – all those typical feelings that kids come home with. It was a moment where I felt so much clarity, and I said, “Hey, that feeling that you’re feeling, that’s your friend, not your enemy. That feeling of ‘I don’t quite fit’ – you need to get used to that because that’s actually what Dad and I want to grow in you, not something we want to diminish.”
 
Q: Which is more difficult: to raise alien toddlers or teenagers? How does age factor into this conversation?
 
A: It is all hard. It’s all hard, but it’s the best work. The Lord says we should raise our children in the fear and admonition of Him. The commands of God are difficult, but they are not burdensome to the believer. So, regardless of what stage of parenting we’re in, we can acknowledge that it’s hard, but the second you move to burdensome, it means parenting is impinging on my ability to be comfortable.
 
I try to urge parents to look at the effort it requires, whether you are dealing with a 2-year-old or a 16-year-old, and say, “Hey, this is the job, and it’s a good job, and the Lord has placed me here to do it,” instead of, “Oh man, when is this kid going to hit the next stage so I don’t have to do this anymore?”
 
Q: What, in your experience, are the areas of life in which parents feel the most pressure to help their children fit in?
 
A: Definitely activities. I’m in an affluent suburb, so if your child is not involved in three or four different things, exploring all the potential options for them to be a professional this or expert that, you’re failing as a parent. That’s where I feel a lot of this ends up pointing to – it’s not that the child is feeling a sense of not fitting in. The parents themselves want to fit into their peer group with the choices that they make for their children.
 
Q: Does technology present a unique problem for children today that it hasn’t in years past?
 
A: Absolutely. Technology definitely presents new challenges in terms of how we manage our children’s exposure to X, Y or Z, or how we manage the time they’re devoting to looking at a screen, which is a huge thing. But it’s not inherently bad, if you can train your children into a philosophy of technology that it is a useful thing, instead of a recreational thing, or a thing that they do in secret or individually.
 
One of the things we’ve really tried to work on with our kids is a shared value around technology. So, rather than me sitting over here watching YouTube videos all day long, it’s all of us watching something together – not just enjoying the entertainment, but enjoying each other’s enjoyment of the entertainment.
There are some basic principles, that when you combine them with something like technology, you can actually turn it into a positive thing.
 
Q: Is all this talk about alien children really about how to be an alien parent? Can you talk about the struggles of parents wanting to fit in by enabling their children to find social acceptance?
 
A: Well, that’s the punchline of the talk. The only reliable way to raise an alien child is to be an alien parent. You yourself must strive to love and serve God with everything you have. More important than right relationship with your child is right relationship with your heavenly Father – that is your only hope of right relationship with your child.
 
Before your child ever learns to read a Bible, they will read you.
 
Any parent can point a child toward conformity and comfort; you must point them to Christ, who was Himself the most alien and strange of all. The alien family is not concerned with the fear of what other parents think. They are concerned with the fear of the Lord.
 
Alien parents trade the fear of man for the life-giving fear of the Lord, because life is too short to spend fearing the wrong things in the wrong ways.
 
As Christian parents, the most hopeful thing we can do is lift up our own eyes and train the eyes of our children to behold our Savior, alien and strange. He is coming on the clouds, and when He comes, may He find the family of God – your family and my family – desperately hoping and yearning to look like Him.
 
Q: What is in the background of this topic for you? Is there anything left out of the talk that you would like to tell parents?
 
A: Parents today are terrified. They have convinced themselves – because there are a lot of voices clamoring to convince them – that they’re raising children during the hardest time there has ever been to raise children and the challenges they’re facing are insurmountable.
 
I draw a lot of comfort from 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except that which is common to man.” I used to always read that as God saying, “Get over yourself.” But it’s actually this really assuring thing, that the God who dealt with the temptations of people 3,000 years ago can deal with these temptations.
 
Although the mechanism for giving in to those temptations may have changed, the problem is still the temptation and the command to flee from temptation itself has not changed. The Person who helps us to do so will never change. We can rely on Him.
 
These are not insurmountable challenges. They’re big and a lot of them are new, so we’re learning how to face them, but I encourage parents to not let your primary motivator for parenting choices be fear.
 
Watch Wilkin’s talk at the 2017 ERLC National Conference:

 

9/5/2017 10:11:03 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Pakistani refugees lost everything but Jesus

September 5 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

A Pakistani asylum seeker said he is grateful for his family’s safety, even though they have lived in hiding for more than six years. Religious violence forced the family from their country and now, due to an unsuccessful resettlement application to the United Nations (UN), they feel trapped in a foreign land.

Contributed photo
Abraham and his wife pray with members of Calvary Baptist Church’s refugee ministry team.


Yet, they told the Biblical Recorder their faith in God and the help of fellow believers have allowed them to hold out hope for a safe place to restart their lives.
 
Abraham*, a Christian and medical doctor by trade, said they fled their home in northeast Pakistan after he was physically beaten and threatened with death by Islamic extremists.
 
He, with his wife and three children, sought temporary refuge in Thailand, but said the drawn-out relocation process has been difficult.
 
Thailand offers visas for a variety of reasons to Pakistani citizens, such as tourism, education or business, but does not make provisions for international asylum seekers or U.N.-recognized refugees.
 
Abraham and his family entered the country on a 30-day tourist visa, but it took years for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to resolve their application for resettlement. The case was denied. Their travel documents have long since expired, and now, six years later, they live in the shadows to avoid deportation or imprisonment by Thai immigration authorities.
 
“We don’t have visas,” Abraham said, “but we have Jesus.”
 

Confronting extremists

Trouble began for Abraham and his family in 2009, when his brother witnessed an attack on a Christian colony in Pakistan that left several people dead.
 
News reports at the time said hundreds of Muslims began rioting after rumors spread that pages of the Quran had been desecrated. More than a half-dozen Christians were burned alive or shot to death, and many houses were destroyed by fire after demonstrations turned violent.
 
Timothy*, Abraham’s brother, offered eyewitness testimony in a police report about the incident, and soon began receiving pressure from Muslim communities to change his on-record statement.
 
Abraham was also pressured to convince his brother to cooperate. Both men refused. As a result, several attackers affiliated with extremist organizations were charged and imprisoned.
 
Despite the jailing, Timothy still felt the lives of his wife and children were in danger.
 
Timothy was now the “bitter enemy” of “almost all the extremists,” Abraham said, so he and his family fled the country. They were able to find temporary shelter in Thailand, before being resettled to Canada.
 

Terror’s new target

Less than two years later, back in Pakistan, the offenders were released on bail. Late one afternoon, only a few days after their release, a group of Muslims forced their way into Abraham’s medical clinic. They ordered patients to leave the facility and began to harass Abraham.
 
The men objected to his practice of seeing both Muslim and non-Muslim patients, particularly women, and for providing only one water cooler.
 
Abraham said they took exception to a paper calendar that hung in the lobby, which featured Quranic verses in decorative Arabic script on the margins.
 
Abraham complied with their demands to remove it, but as he took it down, a corner of the calendar was torn where it had been taped to the wall. The gang became irate. They beat Abraham, hurled insults and tore his clothes.
 
A crowd gathered amid the commotion, and the brief distraction allowed Abraham to escape. He ran into his home nearby and locked the door.
 
The Muslim group vandalized the clinic, he said, then turned their efforts toward the house. Rocks battered the walls as Abraham called the police. Terrified, his wife and three children huddled in a corner.
 
“We thought that day was the last day of our lives,” he said. “I was in a state of agony. My mind was not working, my wife was continuously weeping.”
 
After the mob dispersed, someone knocked on the door and announced there would be a meeting at a local mosque the following morning. The doctor was required to attend, they said through the closed doorway.
 
Later that night a neighbor telephoned to warn him about the next day’s proceeding.
 
Local religious leaders, apparently prompted by an extremist organization, had announced a fatwa – a ruling on a point of Islamic law – against Abraham for allegedly desecrating the Quran.
 
“Tomorrow they will kill you,” the caller warned.
 
Abraham and his family fled at midnight.
 
They first relocated to another region of Pakistan, but it was impossible to conceal their identity, Abraham said, and extremist groups were utilizing local religious organizations to track them.
 
“After that we decided to leave our country,” he said.
 
Abraham knew that leaving meant the end of his 12-year medical career and the only life they knew, but he was relieved.
 
“Thank God we are safe,” he said.
 

Waiting with hope

After six years in Thailand, with no course of action left for resettlement, Abraham and his wife are worried about the circumstances facing their children.
 
“[Their] future is destroyed because they don’t have a proper education,” he said.
 
But despite the challenges, the family remains hopeful.
 
“We have lost everything,” said one of Abraham’s teenage daughters, “but we have found Jesus in our lives.”
 
The family cherishes fellow Christians that have come to their aid.
 
Calvary Baptist Church, an international congregation in Bangkok, developed a refugee ministry around the time Abraham and his family arrived in the country. The volunteer ministry team delivers food bags on a monthly basis to asylum seekers across the city. They also visit those who have been imprisoned in Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre.
 
“Our friends show us the real love of Christ,” Abraham said.
 
Abraham joins the team when they visit other Pakistani refugees, often translating between English and Urdu.
 
“We have learned a lot through this persecution,” he said. “Our God is at work in all situations.”
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is the last in a three-part series covering the plight of Pakistani refugees in Thailand and the Baptists ministering to them.)
 
Other articles in the series:
Baptists serve Bangkok’s ‘Little Lahore’
Refugee Ministry: Finding God in grief
 
Related stories:
Distant churches keep close partnership
 

9/5/2017 9:52:41 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Moore, Castellanos, Perkins to tackle tough topics at Rocky Mount event

September 5 2017 by BR staff

Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., is hosting an event Sept. 16 called the Courageous Conversations Conference, which will feature plenary sessions, workshops and a panel discussion on issues of race and community outreach.
 
Keynote speakers for the conference are Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; John M. Perkins, civil rights leader and founder of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation; and Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association.

Registration for the one-day event ends Sept. 10. Cost is $10 for standard registration, and free for attendees from churches of less than 100 in membership. Visit theimpactcenterconferences.net for more information or to sign up.
 
The Biblical Recorder asked speakers about the topics they intend to address at the event. See the questions and corresponding answers below.
 

Russell Moore

Russell Moore


Q: How do you help Christians see the importance of racial unity?
 
A: In order to help Christians understand the significance of racial unity, we have to help them understand the gospel and we have to help them understand the church. Racial unity matters because the gospel matters. And through the gospel, Jesus is saving for himself a people and bringing them together to form a new family. This new family – made up of persons from every race, culture, and background – is visible on earth as the church, and to show that we care about racial unity, we must preach the gospel and be the church. But far beyond simple platitudes, this means that we must bear each other’s burdens, it means we must care about justice, and we must stand against the scourge of racism that threatens God’s church.
 
Q: What responsibilities, in your opinion, do white Christians bear in reconciliation efforts?
 
A: I believe that racial unity and racial justice represent a hill on which to die. I know some of my brothers and sisters might feel that issues like this are not one of their primary ministry responsibilities, but honestly I think that is a mistake. What Christians need to understand is that when we talk about racial justice, we are talking about a family issue.
 
Jesus not only died for people of every race, he saves people of every race and calls them his own.
White Christians should feel compelled to stand up for their brothers and sisters of other ethnicities because that is what they are, our brothers and sisters. If the gospel means anything to us, we must not be absent from these efforts.
 

Noel Castellanos

Noel Castellanos


Q: Will you offer a brief preview of your plenary talk at the conference?
 
A: The fundamental things I want to emphasize in my talk are, first, the idea of restoring broken relationships – those that have been distorted by our views of people as less than human, such as white supremacy. Second, how are we going to achieve that? You have to do this work in close proximity to the hurt and pain people are experiencing. That’s rooted in this idea that God leaves heaven and becomes a human being in the person of Jesus, and that model becomes informative to us. Real change comes when we enter into the pain of the people that we are seeking to serve and love. Third, I want to talk about economic issues and disenfranchised communities, which are usually communities of color. Until there is reinvestment in neighborhoods, I don’t think you are going to see many of the dynamics we’re facing change.
 
Q: How is America’s growing Latino population changing discussions about racial unity?
 
A: The reality is that, for a Latino to hear racial issues are just about blacks and whites, it’s not going to resonate as true. As we’ve seen, President Donald Trump went after a Mexican-born judge – just because he’s brown, his citizenship or his right to belong in this country was questioned. We’re still seeing a way of thinking that says whites are superior. All the Charlottesville stuff has made that extremely clear, and Latinos are saying, “You know what? We know that because we’re not white, we’re facing similar kinds of attitudes now.” It’s a consciousness-raising that’s happening.
 

John Perkins

John Perkins


Q: Is “colorblindness” a helpful way for Christians to think about racial reconciliation?

A: I think colorblindness is not helpful. One is saying, “I’m looking over your color. I’m pretending that I don’t see color.” I don’t think it’s healthy, because you miss the essence of God’s beautiful creation; but I understand what you’re trying to say. I would not be harsh with an individual. I would explain that all color has beauty and should be affirmed. Black is beautiful. White is beautiful. To affirm, is to love. We need to develop a language of love, a language of acceptance. We, as Christians in particular, are commanded to love.
 
Q: Should churches treat racial division and poverty as separate issues in their approach to ministry?
 
A: We could look at them separately, but try to have discussions collectively. One of our problems has been that we took justice out of the gospel, we took racial reconciliation out of the gospel. Many of these are multifaceted issues, and we’re going to have to learn how to talk multifaceted. Reconciliation should not be a side issue in the church. It is not an elective course. The gospel “commands” us to love one another. Reconciliation is THE ISSUE!
 

9/5/2017 9:36:30 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Trump meets with SBC’s Ezell, other relief leaders

September 5 2017 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

President Donald Trump met with leaders of the three largest disaster relief organizations in the United States at the White House Sept. 1 to discuss relief efforts in south Texas in the wake of historic flooding and other damage left by Hurricane Harvey.

Screen capture from Fox News
Kevin Ezell, second from left, president of the North American Mission Board represented Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in a meeting Sept. 1, with President Trump and first lady Melania Trump in the oval office at the White House to discuss disaster relief efforts in Texas.


Included at the meeting were Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), represented by North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell; American Red Cross, represented by the group’s president, Gail McGovern; and the Salvation Army, represented by Col. David Hudson, the group’s USA national chief secretary.
 
After a 25-minute private meeting in the Oval Office with the president and First Lady Melania Trump, reporters were invited in for an impromptu update about relief efforts in Texas.
 
“We are pleased to receive an update from Gail, David and Kevin on the work of the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” Trump told reporters. “The federal government is on the ground bringing its significant resources to bear, and I want to assure these organizations, and the others involved, that we will continue to coordinate with them and bring all of the relief and the comfort and everything else that we absolutely can to the Gulf Coast.”
 
In his remarks at the briefing, Ezell spotlighted partnerships that make such responses possible.
 
“We’re three different organizations but work best as one,” Ezell said, referring to the SBDR partnership with American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. “The joy of this is we really do lock arms and have the capacity to feed over 400,000 people a day.”
 
Ezell also thanked Trump for the role the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has played during this and other crises.
 
“We have come through many disasters, and they have done a fantastic job of stepping up to the plate and being prepared and allowing us to volunteer in the way we’re prepared to do,” Ezell said.
 
After the White House meeting, Ezell said he was struck by how personally engaged in the relief effort both Trump and his wife are.
 
“I was grateful to see the compassion they expressed toward those who have been impacted by this,” Ezell said. “It was genuine compassion. You can tell the first lady has really been moved by this.”
 
The meeting took place as SBDR units are more fully deploying across south Texas. Feeding teams are now preparing thousands of hot meals each day for storm survivors, many of whom are still living in shelters. Other SBDR units are providing hot showers, laundry services and chainsaw crews who are removing trees and other debris from yards and rooftops.
 
In addition to traditional SBDR work, NAMB is coordinating a Send Relief volunteer effort to utilize churches and volunteers who have no prior disaster relief training. Churches and individuals can register at namb.net/Harvey to be part of the effort.
 
“Our faith compels us to serve those in need. Southern Baptists were invited here today because we have a 50-year record of helping people in times of disaster,” Ezell said after the White House meeting. “When we all work together and cooperate, that’s very powerful. My prayer is that Southern Baptists will continue partnering to meet the great needs in south Texas.”
 
To donate to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Send Relief efforts, visit namb.net/Harvey.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert is executive director of public relations for the North American Mission Board.)
 

9/5/2017 9:32:44 AM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments



Reformation panel planned for annual meeting

September 5 2017 by BR Staff

As North Carolina Baptists prepare for the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC), the BSC Historical Committee plans to offer a panel on the Reformation as well as a film on the topic.
 
“Christians, and specifically Baptists, need to reflect on the fact that Christianity is a historical religion,” said Don Wright, chairman of the committee and member of Salem Baptist Church in Apex.
 
With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaching in October, Wright said this upcoming annual meeting presents a wonderful opportunity to showcase the historical moment for Baptists.
 
On Mon., Nov. 6 from 3-5 p.m., William “Dale” Robertson, who also serves on the historical committee, will host a panel of three speakers: David Williams, dean of faculty at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., representing the Catholic viewpoint; Stephen B. Eccher of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest; and John Armstrong, a Reformed church minister from the Chicago area, who is leading the Reformation educational efforts of the Christian History Institute.
 
Each scholar will have 10 minutes to address three themes from the Reformation: sola scriptura (scripture alone), priesthood of the believer and state sponsored churches. There will also be time for questions from the audience.
 
The other offering will be a showing of the Reformation history video – “This Changed Everything” – produced by the Christian History Institute. It is three hours in length. The film will play Sun., Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. and again at 7 p.m. “The title says everything,” Wright said. “A Christian does not need any earthly mediator.”
 
Both events will be in Auditorium 1 of the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro where the BSC annual meeting is held.
 
Wright expresses excitement about the upcoming anniversary. He believes this event offers opportunities to share with secular media outlets how Baptists came into existence. When Time magazine did a story about the Reformation, they quoted Pope Francis, the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Sometimes referred to as the Protestant Reformation, this movement began a schism from the Roman Catholic Church. Initiated by Martin Luther, the recognized period of the Reformation was 1517-1648.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Biblical Recorder plans to share other stories on the Reformation in upcoming issues. Have you used the Reformation as a sermon, sermon series or study in your church? If so, share your experience with us. How did your congregation react? Email editor@BRnow.org.)
 

9/5/2017 9:25:17 AM by BR Staff | with 0 comments



Baptists on Mission respond to Harvey

September 1 2017 by BR staff

Wait. A hard word to live out day-to-day, but North Carolina Baptists know rushing in to help in Texas would put their people in danger and overwhelm an already strained area.
 
After Hurricane Harvey dumped large amounts of water in and around the Houston area, many people watched on TV as devastating stories were shared. The Biblical Recorder shared stories online of heroic efforts to save people, animals and belongings.
 
North Carolina Baptists on Mission (NCBM) has sent a search and rescue team and a Type 1 team. That team consists of about 100 people working with cleanup/recovery, shower and laundry units, generators, medical reserve, chaplaincy, assessment and various support/equipment volunteers.
 
This team will get NCBM set up in Nederland, Texas, to coordinate future teams in the following days, months and years. The greatest need is money, said Richard Brunson, executive director of NCBM.
 
“Thank you for your willingness to donate items to those affected by the recent disaster,” he said. “Our most pressing need at this time is monetary donations.”
 
Brunson said the initial feeding plan is for NCBM to prepare 30,000 meals a day with about 10,000 more coming from another kitchen unit from another state. Nederland is in between Beaumont and Port Arthur, close to the Louisiana border.
 
“This region of [Texas] has suffered quite a bit of flooding from Hurricane Harvey and they need our help,” Brunson said.
 


Credit card donations can be made by calling  Kecia Morgan at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5613, or mailing a check to: NCBM, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512, Memo line: Disaster Relief Hurricane Harvey.
 
Give online at baptistsonmission.org/hurricaneharvey.
 
There are 3 types of collections:

  1. Hygiene Kits: Use a 1-gallon sealable/Ziploc plastic bags and fill with a variety of the following: soap, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, washcloth, comb/brush, facial tissue, shaving cream/razor, toothbrush/toothpaste, feminine hygiene products.
  2. First aid kits: Purchased (for up to $10 each) at grocery and drug stores.
  3. Diapers and formula.

 
They are not accepting water, bleach and clothing.
 
All donations must be delivered to Red Springs Missions Camp in Red Springs or Shelby Mission Camp for distribution.
 
For Red Springs, contact Larry Osborne at (910) 843-7700 or (919) 264-4397 to schedule delivery. For Shelby, contact David Brown at (704) 487-5599 or (919) 422-9990.
 
Contributing to the North Carolina Missions Offering (ncmissionsoffering.org) supports all NCBM ministries.
 
To donate other items, email Mary Mountz at mmountz@ncbaptist.org  with the description, age of item, working condition and any other necessary information.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Have you, your church or association been involved in collecting supplies? Are you going? Let us know at editor@BRnow.org. Send photos of your efforts as well.)

9/1/2017 5:01:42 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



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