September 2018

Rebel force attacks Baptist churches in Burma

September 28 2018 by Morning Star News Staff

Ethnic Wa rebels this month shut down churches or destroyed their buildings and temporarily detained several clergymen in eastern Burma (Myanmar), sources said.
 

Morning Star News via Facebook
A United Wa State Army (UWSA) militant begins toppling cross on church building in rebel-held territory in Shan state, Burma (Myanmar), in photo circulated on Facebook.

On the border with China, soldiers of Myanmar’s largest ethnic rebel group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), attacked the churches in the rebel’s autonomous region in Shan state, according to Christian leaders. 
 
“We confirmed that at least 12 churches have been destroyed or closed as of Sept. 20,” a Christian leader who has lived in the Wa region for several decades told Morning Star News. The Wa people worship ancestral spirits, and the move by the UWSA was meant to hamper Christian missionary activity, said the leader on condition of anonymity.
 
Most of the targets were Baptist churches in Panghsang, where Wa soldiers destroyed crosses, the source said. The headquarters of the UWSA is located in Panhsang, on Burma’s border with China.
 
A video showing UWSA soldiers damaging a church building in Mong Maw town on Sept. 19 was widely circulated by Myanmar Facebook users. Local sources said schools built by Christian organizations in Panghsand town also have been shut down.
 
“Not only churches in Panghsang city were shut down, but churches in Mong Maw town were also destroyed,” said Ah Kar, a local resident in Mong Maw town. “Some religious leaders were arrested, and some people who worship were briefly arrested, and they were head-shaved before release. Some of those who were head-shaved were women.”
 
Local media reported that the UWSA rebels attacked because the church buildings were built without UWSA permission. The rebel soldiers in the past week detained and questioned several Christian leaders in the UWSA controlled region, sources said.
 
U Nyi Rang, a spokesperson for the UWSA, described the rebels as controlled by extremist elements and said UWSA officials are looking into whether the arrested religious leaders are allowed to carry out their activities in rebel-controlled territory, according to the Myanmar Times.
 
“I heard that some churches were demolished that had been built without the permission of the UWSA central committee,” U Nyi Rang told the Myanmar Times. “We are trying to control the instability in the region caused by extremist, unregistered religious leaders from outside.”
 
Although most of the population in Wa territory worships spirits, there are also Buddhists as well as Christian communities such as Baptists and Roman Catholics. Many area members of ethnic minority groups, such as the Ahkar, Lahu and Kachin, as well as the Wa, are Christians, sources said.
 
“We live in hills and were isolated,” said Tat Nyi Nat, a Christian who lives in Nang Pang in the Wa region. “But we got a chance to study and became educated persons because of the Christian missionaries. We were happy. But we are not happy for the future of our children.”
 
Missionary activity among the Wa has long been carried out, but attacks have been growing steadily worse, and some suspect Chinese authorities are behind them, a local Christian leader who is a long-time resident in the Wa region told Morning Star News.
 
“There have been more restrictions on Christian religious organizations for three years,” he said on condition of anonymity. “It has become worse. We don’t criticize other religions and don’t force non-Christians to convert into Christian.”
 
Bertil Lintner, a veteran journalist who has written several books on Myanmar ethnic minorities, wrote in Asia Times that pressure from Chinese authorities on the border is believed to be behind the restriction on Christian activities in Wa areas.
 
The Chinese Communist Party sees missionaries as tools of Western influence among Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, including the ethnic Wa who have Christians among them, Lintner writes.
 
Asia Times obtained a Chinese-language, UWSA statement stating that all Wa military officers and administrators are instructed to “find out what the Christian missionaries are doing and what are their intensions (sic).”
 
The statement promises to punish local administration officials who support missionary activities, prevents the construction of church buildings and requires that leaders of existing churches be native and not foreign, Asia Times reported.
 
Burma is about 80 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian.
 
The country is ranked 24th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/28/2018 10:37:47 AM by Morning Star News Staff | with 0 comments



Oklahoma churches host Foster Family Retreat

September 28 2018 by Brian Hobbs, The Baptist Messenger

While the foster care needs in Oklahoma remain great, Oklahoma Baptists are finding creative ways to minister and meet the needs of foster families.
 
One such example comes from southeast Oklahoma, in LeFlore Association, where the Foster Family Retreat at Kiamichi Baptist Assembly took place, July 28-29.
 
“Through our contact with DHS, we discovered one of the needs of foster parents is the ability to get their 12 hours of required annual training,” said Neil O’Donnell, director of missions (DOM) in LeFlore Association.
 
“It is difficult to work your busy schedule around, in order to be able to take off work, or find a certified training during your free time. Mainly because foster parents are so busy that they don’t have any free time,” he said.
 
With all that in mind, O’Donnell and others came up with the Foster Family Retreat. The retreat was aided by Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children’s (OBHC) One Such Child foster care ministry.
 
Participants in the camp were able to obtain six of the 12 hours needed, plus have a memorable experience, including a mix of Vacation Bible School and camp-style activities for the children.
 
“It was a Saturday and Sunday event where the families enjoyed all the fun things that church campers get to enjoy while their parents are getting their training,” O’Donnell said. “And the training was in the mornings so the parents can spend time with the kids having fun the entire afternoon. On Saturday evening, there was a time of worship and preaching at the event followed by a Christian movie.”
 
People from the region and other parts of the state registered for the camp. “We have folks from practically every part of the state signed up,” said O’Donnell. Ultimately, the camp drew 79 adults, 165 children, 27 DHS workers/volunteers and 65 VBS/childcare workers.
 
According to O’Donnell, 12 people made professions of faith in Christ at the event.
 
Teri Blanton, OBHC’s One Such Child foster care coordinator said, “OBHC was honored to provide the LeFlore Baptist Association the assistance they requested in promoting the event and getting the training approved for statewide acceptance through DHS.”
 
“After visiting with Randy, and investigating the ministry, we were able to see the opportunity this ministry holds for reaching a great number of lost souls. In the LeFlore Baptist Association alone we have between 100 and 110 foster families, many of which are unchurched families,” he said.
 
Beyond this camp, Oklahoma Baptists of all ages and volunteer levels can find ways to share Christ’s love, connected to foster care, O’Donnell believes.
 
“We have volunteer coordinators who work with churches to come alongside foster families in their area and ‘adopt’ the family,” O’Donnell said. “It might be a Sunday School class or an entire church, but a person, or persons, in the church become the local contacts who work to love-on and pray for the family they have adopted. It might even be a set of grandparents who are not officially in the foster care system, but need help as well.”
 
To discover more about foster care ministry opportunities, churches or individuals can contact Blanton at (405) 972-7901 or teri.blanton@obhc.org.
 
As more people step up to serve, like those who helped at the Foster Family Retreat, foster care children and foster families will increasingly feel Christ’s love through caring Oklahoma Baptists.
 
Children in need of foster homes range in age from infants to teenagers. They may have an emotional or behavioral challenge, have been neglected, abused or abandoned, or have experienced a breakdown in the family.
 
The children are of different races and religions. They identify with their own culture and need help with maintaining their identities, staying connected to their birth families and learning how to be capable, worthwhile and responsible.
 
Some of the children are older, have medical, emotional or special need requirements, or are part of a sibling group that needs to be placed together. The important thing to remember is that all children deserve a family.
 
For more info on your role in Foster Care and adoption, visit obhc.org.
 
Blanton added, “LeFlore Association, under the leadership of DOM Neil O’Donnell, cast a huge vision to minister to foster and adoptive families in need of encouragement and support. They executed their plan with the support of DHS workers, Oklahoma Disaster Relief Workers, and local church members. It truly was a blessing to see children and youth having fun, while their foster parents received DHS re-certification training.”
 
O’Donnell credits a fellow director of missions with helping him see foster care as a great opportunity to share Christ’s love.
 
“We have followed the lead of one of our sister associations, Atoka-Coal, and its director of missions, Randy Hurt,” said O’Donnell.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma where this article originally appeared. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/28/2018 10:37:36 AM by Brian Hobbs, The Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments



Baptist DR sees urgency in getting roofs patched

September 27 2018 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

With various South Carolina communities still plagued by flooding, Southern Baptists Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers have been working tirelessly to help survivors of Hurricane Florence since its landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14.
 


NAMB Photo
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from across the United States have converged on North and South Carolina in aftermath of Hurricane Florence’s landfall Sept. 14. SBDR’s work has focused on providing meals but storm and flood recovery efforts will soon become the main focus.

Several flooded rivers were expected to crest Sept. 26, and as the waters started to recede, SBDR volunteers faced a pressing need to provide temporary roofing for homeowners.
 
“We’ve had virtually no rain since the storm, but we have some rain in the forecast,” Randy Creamer, South Carolina’s disaster relief director, reported. “So, it’s really significant to get roofs covered before the rains return and cause a whole lot more damage.”
 
SBDR teams from South Carolina and Georgia have been using temporary roofing supplies sent by Send Relief, the North American Mission Board’s compassion ministry arm. Send Relief stowed the roofing and other flood recovery supplies in Red Springs, N.C., where they could be readily accessed by SBDR volunteers in North and South Carolina.
 
Send Relief also sent “pastor packs” to state convention SBDR leaders to distribute to pastors and churches to help serve their communities with the packs’ chainsaws, generators, fuel filters and other supplies.
 
“The guys look at the pastor packs and their mouths drop open when we tell them that they’re for them and for their personal ministry to their communities,” Creamer said. “It’s like Christmas in September. It lets them know that somebody cares and that they’re going to get through this.”
 
As Creamer described the feeding and recovery efforts in South Carolina, he lauded the efforts of the local associational mission strategists, saying that they have been pivotal to SBDR ministry to local communities.
 
“They’re our right-hand guys in disaster relief,” he said. “They are seizing opportunities to minister in communities” by helping their churches and pastors meet needs.
 


NAMB Photo
Flooding from Hurricane Florence – which made landfall Sept.14 – continues to plague various communities in South Carolina.

“The gray skies have brought opportunities to minister that blue skies don’t,” Creamer said.

In North Carolina, Richard Brunson, director of North Carolina Baptists on Mission (also called North Carolina Baptist Men; NCBM), stated that more flood and storm recovery opportunities were beginning to open up.

“Our volunteers are seeing a lot of needs and getting a lot of requests for mud-out, tear-out and chainsaw jobs,” Brunson said. “Some places are getting hundreds of requests.”
 
Several thousand volunteers were working today at around 20 locations, serving meals, distributing crisis buckets, cleaning up yards and beginning flood cleanup.
 
“The assistance that other disaster relief teams brought in from other states has been humbling, overwhelming and very encouraging,” Brunson said.
 
As of September 25, SBDR teams in North and South Carolina reported serving nearly 675,000 meals, distributing more than 1,200 crisis buckets, cleaning up over 200 yards and providing temporary roofing for 100 homes.
 
So far, SBDR volunteers have reported nearly 300 gospel presentations, with 54 professions of faith.
 
To donate funds and inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit namb.net/Florence.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/27/2018 11:41:33 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments



Recession still impacts CP 10 years later

September 27 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, Fla., is a case study in how Cooperative Program (CP) giving has fared during the decade since the financial crisis of 2008.
 
Ten years ago, the congregation was thriving. Worship attendance was at 3,500 and climbing; pledges had been made for a multimillion-dollar building program; and southeast Florida’s real estate market was hot.
 
Then what has been dubbed the Great Recession hit. The housing bubble burst – striking regions like Florida, California and Las Vegas particularly hard – and the stock market’s Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced its largest single-day drop to date in late September 2008.
 
While Church by the Glades continued to grow and people continued coming to faith in Christ, finances tightened. With job losses and personal bankruptcies among members, the church made a difficult decision to decrease its giving through the Cooperative Program by some $300,000 annually over five years to sustain its building program and keep ministries afloat amid explosive growth.
 
CP is Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.
 
“We love and are committed to the Cooperative Program,” Church by the Glades executive pastor Raul Palacios told Baptist Press. But a significant portion of the church’s financial resources had to be focused “on growing the church and reaching lost people.”
 
Today, Church by the Glades’ undesignated receipts and worship attendance are well above 2008 levels. But its CP giving has yet to rebound. “We definitely went through a very difficult time financially,” Palacios said.
 
Nationally, the story is similar.
 
Total undesignated receipts of Southern Baptist churches have recovered and in 2016-17 were more than $500 million above 2007-08 levels, according to SBC Annuals. But total CP giving through state conventions was $79 million less during the most recent fiscal year than in 2007-08.
 
CP giving to SBC causes is rebounding thanks to the sacrificial giving of Baptist state conventions – but giving is still more than $6 million below 2007-08 levels. In 2007-08, 37.28 percent of all CP funds were forwarded to SBC causes. In 2016-17, it had increased to 41.49 percent, according to SBC Annuals, the highest percentage in at last 50 years.
 
Kevin White, executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention (NBC), told BP, “We had two things going on at the same time”: the Great Recession and the Great Commission Resurgence, a series of recommendations affirmed by SBC messengers in 2010 and considered subsequently by the SBC Executive Committee. Along with their recommendations to the SBC, the convention’s Great Commission Task Force challenged state conventions to “return to the historic ideal of a 50/50 Cooperative Program distribution between the state conventions and the SBC.”
 
The NBC is one of six state conventions that forward at least half of their CP receipts to the SBC without a “shared ministry expenses” calculation. At least two other state conventions forward at least half after deducting shared ministry expenses for items like CP promotion, which benefit both the state and national conventions.
 
Though the NBC was behind in its budget following the recession, White said, they increased CP giving “because we believed God wanted us to trust Him and be part of the endeavor across the world of reaching people for Jesus Christ.” Other state conventions seem to feel similarly, he added.
 
Ashley Clayton, the SBC Executive Committee’s vice president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship, said renewed enthusiasm for CP-funded ministries among Southern Baptists makes him optimistic total CP receipts will begin trending upward.
 
“During the first two to five years of the economic downturn, churches changed their percentage of giving” through CP, Clayton told BP. As churches rebound from the downturn, increasing their percentages of undesignated receipts given through CP “is a slow process.”
 
Individuals “may change their gift every year,” Clayton said. “But our church very seldom changes its percentage giving” through CP – generally once a year at most.
 
Among factors that make Clayton and other EC leaders optimistic about a CP increase to come:
 

  • Total charitable giving in the U.S. hit an all-time high in 2017, according to the Giving USA annual report. Total giving to religious causes increased 3.9 percent between 2015 and 2016 and an additional 2.9 percent between 2016 and 2017.

  • The 19 Christian denominations that are members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (EFCA) reported a cumulative 19.8 percent increase in the revenue they received between 2007 and 2017, the ECFA told BP. The SBC is not an ECFA member.

  • Among Southern Baptist churches that gave $1,000 or more through the Cooperative Program in 2016, CP giving averaged 6.32 percent of their undesignated receipts – well above the 4.86 percent average for all Southern Baptist churches in 2016-17.

  • SBC President J.D. Greear has prepared a customized video for each Baptist state convention this fall, extolling CP and urging churches to increase their giving.

 
White added that church plants are giving through CP at above-average rates, including one Nevada church plant that is two years old and in the top 15 CP-giving churches in the state. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) requires all church plants to give at least 6 percent of their undesignated receipts through CP, according to NAMB’s 2018 written report to the SBC.
 
Clayton concluded that while the SBC’s total CP giving hasn’t rebounded since 2008, “I suspect that it will.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/27/2018 11:41:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Murderous nation needs ‘grace and mercy’ from church

September 27 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Murderous rampages have become so common that crime trackers disagree over proper terminology to describe the carnage.
 
Active shooter” incidents that the Federal Bureau of Investigations tracked at 30 in 2017 marked a 50 percent increase over the previous year. But that category is not as expansive as “mass shootings” that the crowd-sourced database Mass Shooting Tracker tallied at 427 in the same period.
 
Among the church’s challenges in the midst of the increasing violence is to continue to show God’s love, grace and mercy in the midst of Satan’s prolific work, pastors affected by such violence told Baptist Press.
 
Frank Pomeroy pastors First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, which suffered the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history Nov. 5, 2017, ending with 26 dead and 20 injured. Among [the] deaths: Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter Annabelle.
 
“The church should respond to such tragedy as it would any other tragedy and that is with grace and mercy,” said Pomeroy, who broke ground on a new building in May. “Whether dealing with survivors or with perpetrators, we have been called to be emissaries of Christ in all situations.
 
“We are to extend a hand of forgiveness and then counsel with wisdom to whomever will listen,” Pomeroy told BP, “so as to lead others to Christ.”
 
Tally Wilgis founded Captivate Christian Church (SBC) in urban Baltimore, which suffered the highest homicide rate in 2017 among U.S. cities with more than 500,000 people, according to FBI figures released Sept. 24. The city’s 342 homicides the FBI tabulated yielded a rate of 56 per 100,000 people.
 
“These are 342 people made in the image of God. This has become normal: no outcry, no march, no national media attention,” Wilgis said. “While mass shootings draw media coverage, the loss of life is happening in our urban centers at an astronomical rate.”
 
Wilgis, executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association, believes society has become desensitized by the rapidity of such occurrences, including lone killings and mass murders.
 
Among the murders with the highest casualties, the killing of 58 and wounding [of] 489 during an outdoor Las Vegas concert in October 2017, and the murder of 49 and wounding of 53 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. In that same two-year period, the FBI ranks the Sutherland Springs murders as the third highest.
 
“The contrast between heaven and earth cannot be clearly known unless the people of God are vocal ambassadors of heaven,” said Wilgis, warning against complacency. “Sin, death, and destruction are not acceptable conditions for the Christian. The lost world around us must know that violence, death, and destruction are not to be expected. Our hope rests in Jesus’ making all things new.”
 
In the most recent mass shooting in America, a temporary employee at an Aberdeen Rite Aid distribution center north of Baltimore began firing a handgun Sept. 20, killing three workers and injuring three others before killing herself, police said.
 
“We should be concerned with mass public shootings,” Wilgis said, “but the main reason we draw our attention to these events at the expense of what is happening in our inner cities is because we have accepted as a society the murder of people who do not look like us and do not live near us.”
 
Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C., has sought to help the city heal from 2015 mass murder of nine members of Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killed by a visitor to their evening Bible study and prayer meeting.
 
“All mass shootings are horrible evils with devastating effects on families and entire communities,” Blalock said. “The real story, however, is how the church protected the city. Emanuel Church members showed grace in the face of a hate crime intended to cause a race war. The churches of the city took the lead to protect the city from the rage and hatred that could have destroyed it.
 
“The power of God’s grace covered a whole city in the midst of our worst nightmare,” Blalock said of Charleston.
 
In 2016 and 2017 combined, the FBI tracked 50 cases of active shooters, resulting in 221 deaths and 722 wounded, excluding the killers. The two-year period held a stark increase from the period of 2000-2015, when 200 active shooter incidents yielded 578 deaths and 696 wounded victims, according to FBI reports.
 
The FBI defines an active shooter “as one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” Mass killings, in FBI jargon, “include three or more killings in a single incident.”
 
The crowd-sourced Mass Shooting Tracker, which defines mass shootings as single outbursts of violence in which four or more people are shot, has counted 332 incidents which killed 383 and injured 1240, according to massshootingtracker.org.
 
Pomeroy recommends God’s grace for a murderous society.
 
“We live in an era that I believe the Bible tells us was to come, an era of persecution and tickled ears,” he said. “We have been lucky in America that it is just now showing itself; it has been happening overseas for years.”
 
After such tragedies on church property in particular, Christ has to be the driving force in recovery, Pomeroy told BP.
 
“Christ has to be in the lead of all discussions. I believe that where many churches fail is by allowing committees and personalities (to) lead in the discussions and decisions in the aftermath and forget about God,” he said. “As long as Christ is first in all conversations, I believe the community and the church both prosper.”
 
Wilgis, Pomeroy and Blalock recommend churches take steps to make their property a safe haven from crime.
 
“I do not think we have seen the last of the persecution, therefore I would warn churches to set up a safety response team and have them adequately trained for all emergencies, from heart attacks to fire to active shooters,” Pomeroy said. “Shun complacency and be proactive about making your church a safe refuge from the storm.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/27/2018 11:40:52 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



3-min. testimonies & prize drawings make ears perk up

September 27 2018 by Tim Tune, Baptist Press


Submitted photo
Micah Gilmore, children’s minister at West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc, Miss., readies to share his three-minute testimony during the northeast Mississippi town’s annual arts and crafts fair.

Most Christians are willing to share their faith when it can be as simple as a three-minute testimony, a Mississippi church has found in using the three-minute story witnessing method.

“When you tell people, ‘What we want you to do is share your testimony in three minutes,’ that means I don’t have to sit down and carry on an hour conversation,” said David Hamilton, senior pastor of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc and a former Mississippi Baptist Convention president.
 
The three-minute story often is used by churches and Christian organizations at events where witnessing is coupled with a prize giveaway to attract people.
 
Joseph Luby, West Heights’ associate pastor of education, and one of the church’s deacons suggested that West Heights use three-minute story witnessing at Pontotoc’s annual arts and crafts fair, the Bodock Festival, in northeast Mississippi.
 
West Heights is sponsoring a booth at the October event for the second time this year. Church volunteers will invite people to listen to their story and then register to win a prize. Last year the church gave away a riding lawnmower.
 


Submitted photo
Mark Stegall of West Heights Baptist Church in Pontotoc, Miss., voices his three-minute testimony to a couple interested in entering a drawing for a riding lawnmower.


As festival-goers walk by the booth, Hamilton explained, “We’ll tell people, ‘We want you to sign up to win this lawnmower.’ We tell them it doesn’t cost anything, but it does cost them three minutes of their time. Most folks in Pontotoc will give you three minutes.”
 
At last year’s two-day festival, 36 volunteers shared their stories with 850 people. Five prayed to receive Christ, the pastor said.

In another application of the method, a group of the church’s youth in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes used the three-minute story, coupled with a $100 gift card giveaway, to witness to their classmates. Luby reported that three youths made professions of faith during the student-led initiative.

The three-minute story witnessing method has been used at numerous events – large and small – since Texas evangelist Ronnie Hill came up with the idea.
 


Photo from ronniehill.com
Evangelist Ronnie Hill, originator of the three-minute testimony and prize drawing, relays “the simplicity of the gospel of my life before Christ, and how I met Christ, and what my life is now with Christ.”

In the early 2000s, Hill went to the NASCAR race in Bristol, Tenn., where he was giving away a motorcycle “to get people to come into the tent and listen to me preach for 10 minutes.” After the message, people would register for the motorcycle giveaway, which would be held after the race. “We had over 700 saved over three days doing that,” Hill said.
 
“But what I realized was we were missing a lot of people because they wouldn’t want to wait around” – until the top of the hour – “to hear me preach again. And so I thought, I need more people to help me catch all these people because I’m doing it by myself. So that’s when I started taking people with me and training them how to share their testimony – the three-minute story – so we could catch people as they’d come by. That’s how it grew at first.
 
“And from there we went to Texas Motor Speedway and did it. And then Sturgis,” the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., where in 2006 Hill partnered with the Dakota Baptist Convention to establish what has become an annual outreach giving away a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
 


Photo from sturgisbikegiveaway.com
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been the rallying point for the Dakota Baptist Convention’s witness through three-minute testimonies and a drawing for a Harley-Davidson bike for 13 years.

This year’s 10-day rally, Aug. 3-12, marked the 13th consecutive for the ministry. Dakota Baptist state director of missions Buck Hill (no relation to Ronnie Hill) has participated since the beginning and now manages the ministry.

In a video on the sturgisbikegiveaway.com website, Buck Hill admits he wasn’t enthusiastic when Jim Hamilton, then-executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention, first shared his vision for a ministry at Sturgis 14 years ago. (Jim Hamilton is not related to Mississippi pastor David Hamilton.)
 
“But the more and more God impressed upon me, and the more years I’ve done it, it is absolutely a need here,” and “person after person comes to know Jesus Christ. We’ve even seen them being followed up for 12 or more years from the people that led them to Christ. And so I’m in it until Jesus comes back or until He takes me home.”
 
This year, the website reports that 2,732 people were witnessed to and 227 made professions of faith.
 
Hill shared in an email that, for him, the three-minute story is effective because “it’s my story, it’s not somebody else’s story. It is the simplicity of the gospel of my life before Christ, and how I met Christ, and what my life is now with Christ. And I think that is why so many people are willing to listen to it. It’s real, and while they may not agree with it, they do not deny that it’s my story.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Tune is a writer in Fort Worth, Texas. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/27/2018 11:40:32 AM by Tim Tune, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



NAMB, Revitalize Network add focus outside the South

September 26 2018 by NAMB Staff

The North American Mission Board (NAMB), in partnering with the new Revitalize Network initiated by Thom Rainer, will provide resources, tools and coaching to churches in need of revitalization outside the South.
 

“One of the biggest things we hear expressed from established churches outside the South is the need for revitalization resources,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “Thom’s new network will offer a great solution for that. This will revolutionize the access these churches have to revitalization tools.”
 
Rainer, who has announced his retirement from LifeWay Christian Resources, announced the Revitalize Network’s formation Sept. 10.
 
Through NAMB’s partnership with the network, the mission board will help pay for a revitalize “bundle” that includes assessments to help a pastor better know himself, his church and the community they’re trying to reach.
 
“Kevin has a passion for the Great Commission, for reaching lost people, and for helping churches move to greater health,” Rainer said, describing the partnership as “indicative of the great mission and vision of both NAMB and its leaders.”
 
Rainer announced Aug. 27 that he would retire from LifeWay after his replacement is found or by the end of August 2019, whichever comes first. The Revitalize Network subsequently launched with LifeWay Christian Resources, California Baptist University and Brentwood (Tenn.) Baptist Church as network partners.
 
For years NAMB has provided funding to state Baptist conventions for church revitalization efforts. That funding will continue, but through the new partnership NAMB will work with state conventions outside the South to identify churches that could benefit from the Revitalize bundle and cover half the cost for the church.
 
“We want to see healthy churches that are reaching people for Christ,” Ezell said. “That is the goal we have for every church we help Southern Baptists plant and that’s our goal with this new partnership. Many state conventions in the South offer great revitalization resources for their churches, but outside the South this is a bigger need.”
 
The bundle, which also will be available to churches throughout North America, will include the services of a coach who will work with a pastor during key stages and help envision a roadmap for the revitalization process.
 
NAMB also will continue to sponsor the Revitalize & Replant podcast which is co-hosted by Rainer and Mark Clifton who leads NAMB’s church replanting efforts.
 
The Revitalize Network also will provide networking with other churches involved in the revitalization process, church facility evaluations, educational scholarships and assistance with church mergers and acquisitions.
 
Both Rainer and Ezell expressed hope that the new partnership will help many churches get on the path to better health.
 
“I believe this new partnership will be the beginning of a wave of church revitalizations across North America,” Rainer said.
 
“We can’t afford to have any churches on the sidelines,” Ezell said. “Every church has a role to play in the Great Commission assignment we have been given.”
 
For more information about the Revitalize Network, visit RevitalizeNetwork.org. For more information about NAMB’s church replanting resources, visit namb.net/church-replanting.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/26/2018 10:33:51 AM by NAMB Staff | with 0 comments



Women, babies to benefit from ERLC gift to clinic

September 26 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The placement of a new ultrasound machine at Liberty Women’s Clinic by a Southern Baptist entity means this to Carol Graham – more women will have the information needed to choose life for their unborn babies.
 

Photo by Paige Brooks
Carol Graham, (left) and Whitney Putnam are recognized as ERLC President Russell Moore announces Monday night (Sept. 24) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary the placement of an ultrasound machine at the Liberty Women’s Clinic in suburban Kansas City, Mo. Graham is the founder and CEO of the clinic, and Putnam is its resource director.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), announced Monday night (Sept. 24) the placement through its Psalm 139 Project of a new machine at the clinic in Liberty, a suburb northwest of Kansas City, Mo. He made the announcement after speaking at the For the Church National Conference sponsored by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Graham – the clinic’s founder and chief executive officer who was introduced from the audience with clinic resource director Whitney Putnam – said the clinic is “deeply grateful for this generous gift from the ERLC.”
 
“We know how important providing a quality image of life growing in the womb is for a woman to make a choice for life,” Graham said in a written statement.
 
Eight of 10 women “have chosen life after seeing a heartbeat on the screen” at the clinic since it began offering limited obstetrical ultrasounds in 2007, she said. The new machine will enable the clinic “to increase our capacity for appointments by 37 percent in 2019, providing the opportunity for many more women to choose life,” Graham said.
 
It is an honor to partner with Liberty Women’s Clinic, Moore said.
 
“This gift is on behalf of Southern Baptists around the world who have given sacrificially for the sake of caring for unborn children and women in crisis,” he said in written comments. “These machines are a powerful instrument for good, and servants such as those at Liberty Women’s Clinic play an immeasurably important role in the church’s mission to be a witness for human dignity.”
 
The Psalm 139 Project is the ERLC’s ministry to help place ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers across the country and also fund the training of staff members to operate the machines. The initiative’s name comes from the well-known chapter in the Bible in which David testifies to God’s sovereign care for him when he was an unborn child. David wrote in verse 13 of that psalm, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
 
Since 2004, the Psalm 139 Project has helped provide ultrasound equipment for centers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, as well as a previous placement in Missouri.
 
The Psalm 139 Project also plans to aid in placements this year at centers in Dallas and New Orleans.
 

Photo by Paige Brooks
ERLC President Russell Moore announces placement of an ultrasound machine through the entity’s Psalm 139Project with Liberty Women’s Clinic in suburban Kansas City, Mo. Moore made the announcement Monday night (Sept. 24) after speaking at the For the Church National Conference at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Liberty Women’s Clinic, which began operations in 2002, moved into a new building two years ago and expanded to two ultrasound rooms, Graham told Baptist Press. The Psalm 139 Project grant will enable the clinic to replace a 12-year-old machine and offer “a quality image in two rooms simultaneously,” Graham said. The clinic also has a mobile unit with an ultrasound machine that serves women in urban Kansas City.

Kaley, a former client at Liberty Women’s Clinic, believes seeing the heartbeat of her unborn daughter in an ultrasound image made the difference for her.
 
“The heartbeat meant that she was real, she was alive, she was a baby inside of me,” Kaley said of her daughter in a video testimony about the clinic’s ministry.
 
Kaley, a single mother of a boy at the time of her pregnancy, had kept an earlier appointment at an abortion clinic but chose not to go through with the procedure and found the experience “very traumatizing.” The Liberty Women’s Clinic staff reminded her God “can do amazing things and just to lean on Him,” she said. Kaley said she prayed more than ever in her life during the pregnancy, and “He got me through it,” she said. Kaley’s daughter was born last year.
 
The ERLC has collaborated with Focus on the Family’s Option Ultrasound Program on some of the machine placements.
 
All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified giving plan. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to donate is available at psalm139project.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE –Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/26/2018 10:33:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘More than ever’ global school prayer event critical

September 26 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Prayer is needed now in schools more than ever, organizers of an annual prayer event said as the initiative marks its 28th year Sept. 26 at 7 a.m. in schools globally.
 


See You at the Pole photo
Public and private school students will gather around flag poles to pray for their school and country at the annual See You at the Pole Sept. 26 in the U.S. and many foreign countries, as seen in this gathering from a previous year.

See You at the Pole (SYATP), drawing an estimated 1 million students in prayer on school grounds, is expanding its influence this year by teaming with Claim Your Campus (CYC), a national prayer initiative mobilizing students in daily prayer in middle and high schools.
 
“These are unprecedented and challenging times for students,” SYATP national coordinator Doug Clark said in a promotional Facebook video. We all want a better future for our students, one that’s safe, positive and fair for all.
 
“Prayer is the first best thing we can do to make this happen,” said Clark, who is also national field director for the National Network of Youth Ministries.
 
The SYATP Global Week of Prayer surrounds the day, extending from Sept. 24–28 and allowing more schools to participate. Fully within the law, SYATP encourages students to gather in Christian prayer at 7 a.m. local time around flagpoles before the start of the school day.
 
The event strategically occurs near the beginning of the school year. Billy Beachum, SYATP national coordinator, said the cooperative effort between SYATP and CYC is motivated by current events and the groups’ shared value and vision to see God’s love change schools.
 
“More than ever, students need to know that they are loved and that they matter to God,” Beachum said in the Facebook video. “Together we can show students that we care and that they are safe and supported at school. But most importantly, we can help each and every student know that there is a God who loves them.”
 
Both student-led events, SYATP grew out of a 1990 DiscipleNow weekend in Texas while CYC was birthed through an eight-student prayer meeting at the largest public school in Michigan in 2009, according to claimyourcampus.com.
 

“Now is the time to show students that we care,” founder Jeff Eckart likewise said on a Facebook video of CYC, working to engage students in daily prayer at all 67,000 middle and high schools in the U.S. “We see a powerful path moving forward for change,” mobilizing students in “praying for grace, peace, justice and mercy.... See you at the Pole and Claim Your Campus complement one another, and we are thrilled to work together.”
 
If SYATP causes any contention among school administrators, organizers encourage students to meet elsewhere, with instructional resources available at syapt.com. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), one of more than 100 groups and Christian ministries supporting SYATP, provides a summary of students’ legal rights in a memo available at adflegal.org.

Students “are taking a courageous and unpopular stand for their faith when they show up at their schools’ flagpoles in the morning to pray,” ADF representative Sarah Kramer wrote in an ADF blog. “But that is also the reason we have hope. These students are an example to all Christians. They are not shying away from proclaiming their faith and praying in public. They are a testament that their faith trumps their popularity.”
 
SYAPT participation reached 3 million in its early years, Clark has said, but participation has leveled at a million annually. Students in more than 60 countries have participated.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/26/2018 10:33:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Door-to-door nurture yields soul-winning daughters

September 26 2018 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

“Here’s my daddy Matt, and here’s my momma Hope, and I’m Madison. And we’ve come to tell you about Jesus.”
 

Photo by Kathleen Murray, SWBTS
Matt Queen and his wife Hope get a boost in their door-to-door evangelism from their daughters Madison and Matia.

As early as age 5, Matt Queen’s oldest daughter Madison introduced her family this way in door-to-door evangelism.
 
“Every single time my daughter would do that, we always got to share [the gospel]” said Queen, an evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Nobody ever said ‘no’ to Madison.”
 
Queen later did this with his youngest daughter Matia as well, with similar success. In one instance when a woman answered the door, Matia, then just 4, introduced the family and then said, “And we would like to tell you about Jesus. Can we?”
 
The woman said “yes.” But when Queen began to share the gospel, the woman interrupted.
 
“Wait a minute,” she said. “I don’t mind hearing about Jesus and what you want to tell me, but I want to hear it from her.”
 
Matia was not yet a believer. While Queen had brought her evangelizing before, he had never taught her any basic steps for sharing the gospel. Realizing, however, this would be the only way for the woman to hear the gospel at that point, as well as a potential teaching experience for Matia, Queen consented to let her share.
 
“Now, it wasn’t as polished as someone who maybe has had [a course in] Contemporary Evangelism before,” Queen recalled, “but she talked about Jesus coming because of our sin and dying and being resurrected, and ‘You can go to heaven because of Jesus.’ And though there was more I would have liked to see her put in there, she put the gospel in there and said, ‘And you need to accept this, too.’”
 
The woman did not come to faith there on her porch, but Queen nevertheless deemed it a “proud father” moment.
 
“A lot of times, we talk about the gospel being so easy to understand that a child can understand it,” Queen reflected. “Well, in that case I learned that not only can a child understand it, but a child can explain it too.”
 
Beyond opening doors for gospel conversations, Queen had a particular purpose in bringing his daughters along on his evangelistic outings even before they became believers.
 
“I took my daughters evangelizing with me ... because I wanted them to hear the gospel over and over and over again. And not only did I want them to hear it over and over and over again so that hopefully the Holy Spirit would bring them to a point of conviction, but I also wanted them to do it so that they would know that this is what normal Christians do,” said Queen, who holds the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“Chair of Fire”) and serves as associate director for doctoral programs in Southwestern’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.
 
When his daughters – now ages 13 and 7 – later professed faith in Christ, Queen said those early experiences enabled them in their subsequent evangelism efforts to “go beyond an introduction of who we are to an introduction of who Jesus is. So when they got saved, they had already been evangelizing; it was always a natural thing. They already knew how to introduce themselves; now I began to give them the tools to share the gospel.”
 
Madison and Matia have since used these tools to great effect, sharing the gospel door-to-door, with servers at restaurants and with visitors to church. Another “proud father” moment occurred last October when Queen received a text message from Madison, saying, “Guess what, Dad? I just led my first person to the Lord!” In fact, she had led three people to the Lord. Queen still has a screenshot of the text message saved on his phone.
 
“My daughters both have a passion to tell people about Jesus,” he said, “and I don’t even have to prompt them now; it’s just a natural thing.”
 
With his personal experience in mind, Queen encourages Southwestern students to bring their children along with them in their evangelism. Whenever men and women bring strollers to the seminary’s daily evangelism outings, asking, “Is it OK for me to bring my children?” Queen always responds, “Yes!” explaining that bringing children along not only exposes them to the gospel but also provides a model of evangelism for when they, hopefully, come to know the Lord themselves. Such was the case for Queen’s daughters and he prays that it will be so for Southwestern students and their families as well.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/26/2018 10:32:55 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments



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