May 2015

IMB & churches to send ‘limitless missionary teams’

May 15 2015 by David Platt, IMB president

International Mission Board (IMB) exists to partner with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.
In order to see “limitless” missionaries working among the unreached, IMB is exploring multiple pathways through which more men and women from Southern Baptist churches might serve overseas. When you hear pathways, think possibilities all the possible ways that ordinary Christians might serve overseas: as church planters, doctors, teachers, accountants, lawyers, fitness instructors, rickshaw drivers, retirees, students, and the list goes on and on. God has providentially arranged a multiplicity of avenues through which His people can take the gospel around the world, and as the IMB, we want to help Southern Baptists go through as many of those pathways as possible.
Up until this point, IMB has had a certain number of pathways for career, apprentice, Journeyman, International Service Corps and Masters program missionaries. In addition to separate policies for each of these pathways, IMB has had additional policy regulations covering issues like level of education, history of divorce, teenage children in the home, the practice of tongues and/or a private prayer language and circumstances surrounding baptism. Each of these policies was put in place at various times for good reasons.
However, as we look toward the future and the limitless number of missionaries we want to mobilize from Southern Baptist churches, we know that this will likely involve many new pathways through which men and women might serve on missionary teams through the IMB. Each of these pathways may carry unique qualifications, involve various types of training and include different levels of support from IMB. For example, a lead church planter in the remote deserts of the Middle East may require different qualifications, training and support than an Information Technology expert in London, a student in Shanghai, a business professional in Dubai or a retiree in Bangkok. Nevertheless, all of them may be IMB missionaries, and thus all of them need to meet a base level of qualifications. In light of this, we have seen a foundational need for a simple, clear statement of qualifications that not only unifies all IMB missionaries together, but also unifies IMB with the churches and entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For this reason, IMB trustees voted this week to approve a policy that creates a single, unitary statement of qualifications that will characterize every missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB. Further, this single policy now replaces all of the other policies mentioned above that address specific qualifications for different pathways. In order to be as clear as possible, I have inserted the new policy below, and then I want to explain it further below. The policy states:
An IMB missionary is a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church, and affirmed by the IMB to cross geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places. IMB exists to empower limitless teams of missionaries made up of different men, women, and families with distinct roles and responsibilities. IMB provides multiple pathways in which missionaries may serve on one of these teams, each of which carries unique qualifications. However, any IMB missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB leadership is required to meet the following qualifications:

Spiritual qualifications

  • Vibrant personal discipleship: As they abide in God’s Word and walk in step with God’s Spirit, IMB missionaries bear fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ.

  • Evident personal disciple-making: IMB missionaries are meaningfully involved in a local church in which they participate in leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized in the church, and showing believers how to obey Christ, all with a view toward reaching the nations with the gospel.

  • Call: The call to serve as an IMB missionary has been discerned within a local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.

  • Commitment: IMB missionaries are devoted to the vision, mission, values, and beliefs of the IMB.

Southern Baptist Identity

  • Currently a baptized member of a Southern Baptist church

  • Commitment to and identification with Southern Baptists

  • Conviction of truth as expressed in the current Baptist Faith and Message statement of the Southern Baptist Convention


Good physical, emotional, and mental health.


IMB missionaries model a godly family life and/or personal relationships.


Service is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the United States.
A few comments and clarifications regarding what this policy does and does not mean are extremely important.
First, this policy means that when it comes to specific IMB pathways for service like career, apprentice, Journeyman, International Service Corps, or Masters, IMB no longer has official policies detailing additional qualifications for each of these pathways. Nevertheless, this policy does not mean that just anyone can now serve through any of these pathways created by IMB. We will still have clear expectations and qualifications, which accompany every pathway created by IMB (whether the ones mentioned above or new pathways we create in the days ahead). This policy simply allows IMB leadership the opportunity to evaluate and revise the expectations and qualifications for those pathways in order to continually strengthen them in the days ahead.
Second, this policy does not mean that current principles governing the selection of missionaries may not apply to particular pathways in the future. For example, we have had a policy prohibiting missionaries with teenage children from being selected for certain pathways. This policy was established for good reason in light of challenges for children (and their families) moving overseas at certain ages. As a result, there may be some pathways through which IMB continues to not appoint missionaries with teenage children. At the same time, this new policy does leave open the possibility for IMB pathways to exist in which missionaries with teenage children might serve through IMB. Certainly we will approach a family with older teenage children who are considering moving their lives permanently to a remote area in sub-Saharan Africa differently than a family with younger teenage children who are considering moving their lives for a one-year assignment in London.
Third, this policy does not signal a change in practice regarding how the IMB works in relation to Southern Baptist doctrine and practice. The purpose of this policy is actually to ensure that every potential IMB missionary is a meaningful member of a Southern Baptist church and believes and works according to the current Baptist Faith and Message. This policy asserts that this statement of faith, which unites over 40,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, is sufficient for us. Moreover, this policy states that the Baptist Faith and Message is significant for us in the sense that we will hold missionaries to it, not only in what they believe but in how they live and work as IMB missionaries. In sum, this policy states that every meaningful member of a Southern Baptist church who has been baptized (by immersion) as a follower of Christ, whose belief and practice both align with the Baptist Faith and Message, and who meet all of the spiritual qualifications mentioned above may potentially serve as an IMB missionary.
Fourth, simply because we replace other policies addressing more specific doctrinal distinctives beyond the Baptist Faith and Message does not mean that such distinctives are now unimportant to IMB. For example, replacing the policy that addresses tongues and private prayer language does not mean that the issue of tongues is unimportant to IMB work around the world. We will continue to train and work as missionaries in ways that faithfully represent Southern Baptist churches and conviction, and we will continue to have as part of our “Manual for Field Personnel” allowance for termination of employment for any missionary who places “persistent emphasis on any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive” to Southern Baptist missions work. In a similar way, replacing the policy that addresses believer's baptism does not in any way mean that IMB will in any sense dilute the way we select, train and work as missionaries in complete accord with the statement on baptism in the Baptist Faith and Message.
Fifth, this policy does not mean we are lowering the standards for missionaries. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. Some may see the replacement of policies dealing with divorce or tongues, for example, as efforts to “lower the bar” regarding expectations of missionaries. One might imagine a man or woman with multiple divorces who is also engaged in harmful charismatic practices and wonder if this policy revision now opens the possibility for that person to serve as an IMB missionary. But this is most definitely not what this policy means. As you see in the new policy, the baseline qualification for missionaries includes men and women who “bear fruit of an intimate, growing relationship with Christ” and are “meaningfully involved in a [Southern Baptist] church in which they participate in leading people to faith in Christ, seeing new believers baptized in the church and showing believers how to obey Christ, all with a view toward reaching nations with the gospel.”
Further, prospective missionaries must evidence a missionary call that is both “discerned within their local church and affirmed by that local church alongside IMB leadership.” Finally, they must be “devoted to the vision, mission, values, and beliefs of the IMB.” We hope that if all of these characteristics are evident in a member of a Southern Baptist church, and that church affirms with us God’s call for that member to work as a missionary, then pathways for service as an IMB missionary may be a possibility (whether as a church planter or support worker who receives full financial support from the IMB, as a business professional who receives no financial support from the IMB or anywhere in between).
In conclusion, what this policy means is that IMB wants to open wide the door for Southern Baptist churches to send thousands upon thousands of biblically qualified members in the days ahead to serve as IMB missionary team members who are making disciples and multiplying churches among the unreached. These members will serve in many different positions with many different responsibilities, ranging from lead church planters to vital support roles, from business professionals to college students to active retirees. From a variety of different backgrounds with a variety of different skills and a variety of different qualifications, they will join together to spread the gospel to people who have never heard it. The ultimate aim of this policy revision is to enable limitless God-exalting, Christ-following, Spirit-led, biblically-faithful, people-loving, high-quality Southern Baptist missionaries to serve with IMB through a multiplicity of pathways in the days ahead.
For an International Mission Board FAQ on the new policy to streamline guidelines for appointing new missionary personnel, click here.
(EDITOR'S NOTE – David Platt, president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, amplifies a new policy to streamline guidelines for appointing new missionary personnel. The policy was adopted by IMB trustees during their May 12-13 meeting in Louisville, Ky.)

Related Story:

IMB opens new pathways for service

5/15/2015 11:14:02 AM by David Platt, IMB president | with 0 comments

Nominals to Nones: 3 Key Takeaways From Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey

May 14 2015 by Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today

Christianity is not dying, as I've often said; nominal Christianity is.
May 12, Pew Research Center released a report drawing a variety of headlines – everything from “Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans are becoming even less affiliated with religion” to “Pew: Evangelicals Stay Strong as Christianity Crumbles in America.”
So what are we supposed to think of Christianity in America?
The big trends are clear, the nominals are becoming the nones, yet the convictional are remaining committed.
In other words, Americans whose Christianity was nominal–in name only–are casting aside the name. They are now aligning publicly with what they’ve actually not believed all along.


Ed Stetzer

The percentage of convictional Christians remains rather steady, but because the nominal Christians now are unaffiliated the overall percentage of self-identified Christians is decline. This overall decline is what Pew shows–and I expect it to accelerate.
Not one serious researcher thinks Christianity in America is dying. What we see from Pew Religious Landscape Survey is not the death-knell of Christianity, but another indication that Christianity in America is being refined.
As such, let me share three takeaways from the data.


1. Convictional Christianity is rather steady.

Evangelicals are not the only people who call themselves Christians and a good proportion take it seriously, but since this is an evangelical publication, let me share some data from there with one caveat. You might say that I have a vested interested in evangelicalism's success. However, as an author, the opposite is true. If I announced the death of evangelicalism and Christian faith, I'd sell a lot more books, I assure you.
But, facts are our friends and math is math, so let’s take a look.
First, from 2007 to 2014 the number of evangelicals in America rose from 59.8 million to 62.2 million. Evangelicals now make up a clear majority (55 percent) of all U.S. Protestants (in 2007, 51 percent of U.S. Protestants identified with evangelical churches).
Within Christianity, the only group retaining more of their population than the evangelical church is the historically black church.
One of the primary reasons it appears as though "American Christianity" is experiencing a sharp decline is because the nominals who once made up (disproportionately) Mainline Protestantism and Catholicism are now checking "none" on religious affiliation surveys, and this is why their numbers continue to sharply decline.
For those who have only ever considered themselves "Christian" because they've been to church before or because they aren't Muslim or Hindu, it is starting to make more sense to check "none" on religious identification surveys.
Yet, church attendance rates (though overreported) are not changing substantially.


2. There have been significant shifts within American Christianity.

One of the most notable shifts in American Christianity is the evangelicalization of the church. Fifty percent of all Christians who comprise 70 percent of the U.S. population now self-identify as "evangelical" or "born again," up from 44 percent in 2007.
Pew notes, "The evangelical Protestant tradition is the only major Christian group in the survey that has gained more members than it has lost through religious switching."
It should be noted that evangelicals' share of the overall U.S. population dropped by 0.9 percent over the last seven years, but the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as evangelical actually rose from 34 percent to 35 percent over the same period. The drop in population share is based on denominational affiliation, whereas the 1 percent increase is based on self-identification.
The percentage Millennial evangelicals remained the same 21 percent from 2007-14. The only decline was among the Greatest Generation (28-25 percent), who, because of their age, are not a growth demographic. Every other one stayed the same as well.
Only 45 percent of those raised in the Mainline Protestant tradition remain in Mainline churches. Sixty-five percent of those raised evangelical remain evangelical, behind only Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and historically Black Protestant. Sixteen percent switched to another version of Christianity, 3 percent switched to another faith and 15 percent became unaffiliated.
The only region where evangelicals decreased was the South, from 37 percent to 34 percent. It remained the same in the Northeast and Midwest, and grew in the West, from 20 percent to 22 percent.
That's not to say that evangelicalism is doing well it peaked a couple of decades ago in the United States but one of the big shifts inside Christianity is toward evangelicalism, oddly enough. Yet, in the culture as a whole, and as a percentage of the population, evangelicalism is losing ground.


3. Mainline Protestantism continues to hemorrhage.

Only 45% of those raised in the Mainline Protestant tradition remain in Mainline churches. Those whose parents and grandparents were mainline Protestants aren’t carrying on the family tradition like those who align with other Protestant denominations. Since members of these churches are not gaining new members from the culture at-large, nor growing by birth rates, they continue to decline precipitously.
Mainline Protestantism isn’t experiencing growth as a portion of Americans generally nor American Christianity specifically. If Mainline Protestantism continues its trajectory it is only a couple of generations from virtual extinction.
But Christianity, overall, isn’t dying and no research says it is; the statistics about Christians in America are simply starting to show a clearer picture of what American Christianity is becoming – less nominal, more defined, and more outside of the mainstream of American culture.
For example, the cultural cost of calling yourself “Christian” is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so those who do not identify as a “Christian” according to their convictions are starting to identify as “nones” because it’s more culturally savvy.
Because of this, the statistics show (on the surface) that Christianity in America is experiencing a sharp decline. However, that’s the path of those who don’t read beyond the surface. If there remains a relatively stable church-engaged, convictional minority, and there is a big movement on self-identification, that means that the middle is going away.
In short, and as I put it, the “nominals” are becoming the “nones” AND convictional Christian practice is a minority, but generally stable, population. If that is the case, and that is what the data is showing, than the decline is primarily (not exclusively) that nominal Christians are becoming honest reporters.
So, Christians, we need not run around with our hands in the air and say, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
Christianity is losing, and will continue to lose, its home field advantage; no one can (or should) deny this. However, the numerical decline of self-identified American Christianity is more of a purifying bloodletting than it is an arrow to the heart of the church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE  –  Chris Martin, Aaron Earls, Marty Duren, and Casey Oliver contributed to this blog post by Ed Stetzer.)

Related Stories:

Can you be a Christian without believing in Christ?
Pew: Christians decline while ‘nones’ increase

5/14/2015 9:41:27 AM by Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today | with 0 comments

Can you be a Christian without believing in Christ?

May 13 2015 by Trevin Wax, Religion News Service

The rise of the “nones” – Americans who no longer check a religious affiliation on demographic surveys – has stirred up interesting conversations among church leaders. A generation ago, many Americans would have been considered “nominal” in their devotion. Today, many have stopped claiming a religious identity altogether.
But what happens when the “nones” find themselves longing for the religious world they once knew? Is it possible to reclaim your religious affiliation if you no longer believe in the doctrines of the faith?
This is the situation of Alana Massey, who calls herself a “cultural Christian” – an atheist who finds she can neither fully embrace a secular identity nor abandon her Episcopal heritage. In an article in The Washington Post, “How to Take Christ out of Christianity,” Massey claims a “profound connection to Christianity” even without “theistic belief.” In her experience, secularism isn’t good enough; it doesn’t create a lasting community bond for celebration during the good times and comfort during the bad. What’s more, the “self-help” advice from the nonreligious world is a poor substitute for the robust vision of Christianity, where the moral and ethical stakes in the Bible are so high.


So, if younger American Jews can base their identity on “ancestral, ethnic and cultural connections rather than religious ones,” why can’t Christians celebrate their religion’s moral benefits and societal aspirations, even if they don’t believe in God?
Massey believes we should broaden the meaning of Christianity so that nonbelieving people can be part of the same family seeking peace in the world.
Should we accept a “cultural Christianity” that relishes religious ritual while rejecting religious belief? I offer both a firm “no” and an unreserved “yes.”

“No” to cultural Christianity

Massey’s “cultural Christianity” is not Christianity at all. Only in a world where the individual is the sole determiner of one’s identity does it make sense to say, “I want Christianity without Christ.” Imagine a teetotaler who wants to join a wine-tasting club (“I just love the fellowship!”) or a vegetarian who frequents a barbecue restaurant (“Vegans can’t compete with the smell of pork!”).
You can’t love the “epic moral narrative” of the Bible but reject the major turning points of that storyline – like the resurrection of Jesus, without which the Apostle Paul said Christianity is futile, pitiable, and built on a massive lie.
Furthermore, we must distinguish between the gospel and morality. Massey assumes that the purpose of all religion is to help people become moral and good. Morality is the center of Christianity; therefore, the existence of God and the reality of miracles are not essential to Christian identity.
But what if that assumption is wrong? What if morality isn’t the heart of Christianity but a byproduct of the Christian gospel? The gospel is not about good people getting better but about bad people being made right with God. It’s not about humans making the world a better place but the Son of God making the world his home and then dying and rising to save us.
Once you make Christianity a means to something else, whether it’s the 1960s hippie vision of free love or the social activism of today’s millennials, you trade God’s agenda for your own and create a Jesus who looks an awful lot like yourself. Massey commends a cultural Christianity because it’s helpful; the apostles commended Christianity because it’s true.

“Yes” to “cultural Christians”

Following quickly behind my firm “no” to the idea of cultural Christianity, comes my unreserved “yes” to people like Massey who recognize the real results of the gospel in the church, even though they don’t follow the footprints back to God.
We shouldn’t be surprised when nonbelievers admit there is a void in our secular society. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has described our secular age as a “disenchanted” world that leaves people longing for transcendence, something more than the “this-world-is-all-there-is” dogma of unbelief. As atheist Julian Barnes opens his memoir on death: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.”
On our way to church this week, I explained to my kids Massey’s idea of “wanting to be a Christian without believing in God” and asked what they thought the church’s response should be. My 11-year-old son answered without hesitation: “Welcome her.” His 7-year-old sister piped up from the back seat: “Yes! If she’s close to the church and reads her Bible, she might meet Jesus.”
Neither of my kids thought it possible to be a “true Christian” without believing in Jesus. Nevertheless, they both thought individuals like Massey should be welcomed into churches with open arms – not as brothers and sisters who are part of the same family of faith (for true spiritual kinship is only possible when we have bowed the knee to King Jesus), but as people who bear the image of God and who we pray will one day be remade into the image of Christ.
Massey is right about one thing: Secularism doesn’t fill the longing of the human heart. But neither will “cultural Christianity.” Only the ancient gospel story has that kind of power. And it’s that gospel story that may lead to the day when the “nones” aren’t checking that box anymore.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project and author of multiple books, including “Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After.”)

5/13/2015 10:57:00 AM by Trevin Wax, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Five things you can expect at the SBC this year

May 12 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC president

I want to share five things to expect when you attend the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Many will be attending for the first time, others will be attending their first in a few years, and some will be like me, annual attenders. By the way, you can still register, so perhaps this will encourage you to do so.
1. God will meet with us powerfully.
A few thousand people have been praying for our gathering almost daily, or at least weekly. In these final days before we gather, we pray and ask each of our pastors, church leaders and their churches to set aside a day to pray and fast for this gathering, June 16-17 in Columbus, Ohio. At the least, thousands of our churches could set aside two or three Sundays before our meeting to take five to ten minutes in their worship services to pray for our upcoming convention.
Many of our churches have set aside entire Sunday mornings to pray for revival in the church, awakening in America and to reach the world for Christ. More may do so before we gather in Columbus.
What I do know is that we have set aside moments to meet with God, especially on Tuesday night, when we will take the entire evening session for a national gathering of Southern Baptists to pray for the next Great Awakening and to reach the world with the gospel. Do not miss it. God will meet with us powerfully. May this evening become a catalyst for the next great move of God in America.
2. The schedule will be completely different.
Our Order of Business Committee and the Executive Committee leadership have worked with me in partnership to create what we believe will be a very creative and impactful schedule. Take a moment to download the entire schedule or at least some highlights of it.
We have created packages, things that we believe go together, to help all of us understand more the impact of what God is doing and wants to do through us. The tone will be set in our Tuesday morning session, so do not be late and definitely do not miss it. I hope you will pray for me as I begin preparing to deliver my address to our convention at approximately 9:30 a.m.
3. Multiple opportunities will be given to you continually.
Much occurs at our Southern Baptist Convention. While I rejoice in this and have attended many of them, they exist to complement what we do together inside the convention hall for two days, not compete with it.
I respectfully request all of the groups and leaders that are hosting something or offering something to our messengers to please remember this. Start and conclude before our sessions begin or after our sessions conclude. Let the people out in plenty of time to get into the hall.
Messengers, please be diligent in attending each session. You would be surprised to discover that many messengers never even make it into the hall to attend any sessions. Remember that your churches are funding your trip so that you can participate, listen and return with a report of what our Southern Baptist Convention is doing. This is why we convene, so please join us. We have changed the way we do things so that new people will be interested in attending and to re-engage all of us.
4. Outstanding work is preceding our convention.
At the present time, we have 81 of our 119 churches that are a part of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association involved in Crossover Columbus! This is due to the phenomenal leadership of their director of missions, Rich Halcombe, and the entire Ohio Baptist Convention staff team that is led by their executive director, Jack Kwok.
Preceding the convention, many of our churches from across the country will arrive early to assist in Crossover Columbus. Additionally, seminary and college students will be equipped to evangelize and lead various gatherings to impact the city. We could have up to 1,000 college students assisting in this and hundreds of them attending our convention.
There is still time to come and help. Everyone who will be there for the weekend before can come assist on Crossover Saturday, June 13. Give a few hours to touch Columbus for Christ. Discover what God is doing and how He can use you at
Additionally, there will be many fabulous moments afforded to you before Tuesday. Here is a list of those various meetings from our outstanding Pastors’ Conference, led by Willy Rice, to the great leadership given to our Woman’s Missionary Union by Wanda Lee.
5. You will leave Columbus with vision and hope abounding.
I want to assure you, if you are in our sessions at the Southern Baptist Convention, you will leave with vision and hope abounding.
Can I guarantee that? Yes, because I am convinced the reports and presentations along with the various features will be outstanding. Additionally, I am convinced the business will be conducted diligently.
More than anything, I am convinced that God will meet with us powerfully. I pray you will leave with a burden for what God wants to do; but even more so, we appeal to King Jesus that you also leave with vision and hope abounding.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This column first appeared at Ronnie Floyd’s website,

5/12/2015 11:56:48 AM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC president | with 0 comments

It’s a ‘first response, not a last resort’

May 11 2015 by H.B. Charles Jr., Facts & Trends

Life’s inevitable difficulties and disappointments can discourage believers from praying, but our response should be to pray anyway, and keep praying.
(Q&A conducted by Matt Erickson, managing editor of Facts & Trends.)
Q: What were your goals for [your book] It Happens After Prayer?
Charles: First, I wanted it to be a book about prayer filled with scripture, not stories. Testimonies of answered prayer are inspiring but don’t have the authority of scripture. Power in prayer comes from a mind and heart saturated with biblical truth, wisdom and promises.
I also wrote this book to motivate the reader to pray. Some books beat you up about your lack of prayer. But that’s not the tone of scripture. The Word of God woos us to pray. And I wanted to write a book that had that same feel.
Q: Why should we pray?
Charles: There are at least two biblical reasons why we should pray. First, we should pray because the Word of God commands it. Prayer is an act of obedience. It is a sin not to pray. Second, we should pray because it works. God hears and answers prayers. It is the means by which our heavenly Father provides for His children.
Q: What’s the most important lesson we can learn about prayer?
Charles: It happens after prayer. It really does. God hears and answers prayer. There are things we need God to do for us that will not happen until we pray. Sure, there are a lot of things we can do to help the situation after we pray. But there is nothing we can do to help the situation until we pray. When we work, we work. But when we pray, God works.
Q: Why should we keep praying when nothing seems to be happening?
Charles: I was on a red eye flight with a little girl overwhelmed with the experience of her first flight. She asked her mom, “Why are we just sitting in the air?” Of course, we were not. It seemed that way to the girl. But there was someone in the cockpit speeding us to our destination. Prayer is the same way. It may seem nothing is happening. But God is at work. Don’t stop praying!
Q: What kinds of prayers does God love to answer?
Charles: In It Happens After Prayer, I write [on the basis of Nehemiah 1] that God answers sincere prayer. Prayer that is our first response, not our last resort. God answers reverent, God-exalting prayer. God answers honest, confessional prayer. And God answers believing prayer.
Q: How can prayer help us deal with anxiety?
Charles: You cannot pray and worry at the same time. Prayer is the remedy for worry. Philippians 4:6-7 teaches us to pray our worries away. Nothing is worth worrying about. But everything is worth praying about. We should take our worries, one by one, to God in prayer. And God promises that His peace, “which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Q: What are some spiritual priorities for prayer?
Charles: In his New Testament prayers, the apostle Paul teaches us to pray with spiritual priorities. Most of his prayers aren’t centered on physical, material or financial matters. It’s not wrong to pray about those things, but matters of the heart are more important, so we should focus most of our prayers there.
For instance, we should pray that God’s name be hallowed before we pray about our daily bread. To pray with spiritual priorities is to pray first and foremost for God’s will to be done in God’s power (see Colossians 1:9-14). When we pray that way, we will see that it really does happen after prayer, and we will be even more motivated to keep praying.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Today’s Call to Prayer is adapted from a question-and-answer article with H.B. Charles Jr., senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Church in Jacksonville, Fla., that appeared in the LifeWay Christian Resources magazine Facts & Trends. Charles is the author of a new book, “It Happens After Prayer.”)

5/11/2015 2:17:30 PM by H.B. Charles Jr., Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

My home, my mission field

May 8 2015 by Tiffany McGill, BSC Communications

When I was a child, I heard the song “MOTHER” which was an acrostic poem put to music that explained the many attributes of a good mother. As I look back on 18 years of motherhood, I see that there was one letter missing – D for discipleship.
The Great Commission tells us to “make disciples,” and Acts 1:8 instructs us to begin our mission work as witnesses at home. This work of nurturing Christians in their walk with the Lord must not only begin at home, but it must begin within the walls of our home.
One of the most important jobs that God has given to me as a Christian mother is to disciple my children. Eighteen years ago, God blessed my husband Cameron and I with a precious baby boy. The following 11 years would bring three more children into our family. Little did I know that when my first blessing arrived that my biggest mission field had just become my home.
I have grown the most in my walk with the Lord as I have discipled my children. My prayer life has also taken on a whole new depth as I intercede on their behalf daily. I know that my number one job according to Proverbs is to train up my children in the ways of the Lord so that they will not depart from it. I also understand that this verse instructs parents to help their children discover and develop their “bend” in life, that is, to know and obey God’s will specifically for them.
Deuteronomy 6:7-9 is an excellent guide for mothers to know how to disciple their children. Verse 7 of this passage says, “Teach them (scriptures) to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
The act of discipleship in the home is not just a once a week lesson or a nightly devotional. While those things are good and should take place, true discipleship takes place in everything I do and everything I say. My main goal in parenting is to do everything I can to help my children make the Lord the center of their lives by exemplifying a Christ-centered life.
My husband and I decided a number of years ago that it wasn’t enough to teach our children about missions. God showed us that the best way to help them learn was to allow them the opportunity to experience missions first-hand.
Our church embraces an Acts 1:8 missions strategy called “Here, There and Everywhere.” All four of our children have had the opportunity to experience missions here as we have planted a church (Lake Church, White Lake), there through partnership missions in New York City and everywhere at our sister church in Moldova, the poorest country in Europe.
As parents we have tried our best to instill in our children a global view of the Great Commission. They all possess a strong heart for missions here, there, and everywhere that we pray will stay with them the rest of their lives.
One of the toughest parts of making disciples of my children has been the most important part of their walk with Christ – their personal salvation. Patience is not my strong point, and I struggle with it daily. I really wanted to push when it came to the salvation of my children, but I knew that wouldn’t get me or get them anywhere. If I had pushed my children into making a decision for Christ, I would have always wondered if they had answered my call or the Lord’s call.
I prayed that when the Lord called, my children would be open and ready to receive Him. My three oldest children have all answered the Lord’s call of salvation, and each time was special and personal between them and God. We also continue to pray for the salvation of our youngest child.
I certainly have not mastered discipleship in the home, and I know that I have messed up many times. I pray daily that I will be open to the Lord’s guidance in this journey called parenthood. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Timothy is reminded of the genuine faith that his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice instilled him.
I pray that as I do my best to disciple my children, that they will know that my faith is genuine, and I trust in the Lord for all things. I strive daily to be a good mother so that my children might one day “rise up and call me blessed,” but more importantly, that they will live for Christ and bring Him glory all the days of their lives.
Since the day they were born, we have always told our kids that God had a special plan for their lives. Our duty as parents is to help them as they pursue that plan. May God grant us wisdom and patience as we “press on” together.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article was written by Tiffany McGill, who serves on the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Board of Directors, along with her husband, Cameron. Cameron also serves as the BSC first vice-president.)

5/8/2015 10:37:06 AM by Tiffany McGill, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Baptizing children & regenerate church membership

May 8 2015 by Jason Allen, MBTS president

[Baptist News Global] recently reported that Rodney Kennedy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio, sprinkled an infant. The event was newsworthy because, by definition, a Baptist church does not baptize infants. To practice the latter is to forfeit being the former. Or at least it used to.
The article read as a congratulatory piece, as though it was one small step for a church, but one giant leap forward for Baptists everywhere – no doubt a leap away from draconian biblical and confessional markers of Baptist identity.
But one need not look to a [Cooperative Baptist Fellowship] Baptist church to find believer’s baptism being renegotiated. At least a few conservative Baptist churches have adopted – or have flirted with adopting – some form of dual baptism.
While I have been blessed by the writings of many who practice pedobaptism, as one who is wholeheartedly Baptist, sprinkling infants – especially in erstwhile Baptist congregations – concerns me.
However, what concerns me most is not the rare “Baptist” church that occasionally sprinkles an infant; it is what’s increasingly passing as credo-baptism, or believer’s baptism, these days. Within Southern Baptist life, we have been on a steady march toward infant baptism, routinely baptizing children younger and younger in age.
As the Southern Baptist Task Force on Baptism reported, Southern Baptists continue to baptize a remarkably large number of young children, including those age 5 and under. This trend should prompt careful reflection and should remind us of some of the potential dangers associated with baptizing young children.
As a convictional Baptist, it is hard for me to admit this, but when we baptize children too young to grasp the gospel and, as a result, whose hearts haven’t been affected by it, it is more troubling than sprinkling an infant.
Why is this? Because when Presbyterians, for example, sprinkle infants, they anticipate the child will one day be converted. When we baptize young children we are testifying they have been converted.
This trend concerns me for biblical, pastoral, denominational and parental reasons. Let’s give this closer consideration.

Biblically speaking

To be clear, Jesus didn’t say children must become like adults to be saved. He said adults must become childlike. We are to encourage our children toward following Christ at every age, including the early years. If we are not careful, however, we can find ourselves routinely baptizing young children before they understand the gospel – or have been affected by it.
Perhaps a subtle confusion over conversion and baptism are at the heart of the matter.
As for conversion, we must remember it requires more than agreeing to facts about Jesus to be saved. Conversion is not merely intellectual; it is also affective. To be saved one must not only embrace facts; one must embrace Christ. One must not merely believe facts about Jesus; one must believe in Jesus. This happens through faith in Christ, repentance from sin and submission of one’s life to Him. The point is not that a child cannot be converted; the point is that we should do our best to make sure conversion has happened in our children before baptizing them.
And as for baptism, we do not believe in baptismal regeneration. Therefore, we should not feel an unbridled press to the baptistery. Being baptized is a profoundly essential step of obedience – one that is linked very closely with conversion – whereby one declares their allegiance to Christ, is baptized into the church, and depicts the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
For many reasons, including how closely conversion and baptism are linked in the book of Acts, I’m not for erecting age-based criteria, or adopting a programmatic, wait-and-see approach on baptizing new converts. Spurious conversions occur regardless of the age, and we are not called to wait them out before baptism.
Yet, a healthy understanding of conversion means we need not rush children to the baptistery, and a healthy understanding of baptism means that we shouldn’t. The effects of true conversion will not evaporate like the morning dew. When in doubt as to whether a child is ready for baptism, it is best to give it time.

Pastorally speaking

As a pastor, I have baptized many children over the years. But I also have met with more than a few parents and encouraged them to hold off on pursuing their child’s baptism.
For many pastors, especially those fearful of potential conflict, expressing reservations to parents about baptizing their child can be stressful. Yet over the years I have had that conversation with parents many times. In all my years of ministry, I’ve never had a parent leave the conversation frustrated with me, at least having expressed that frustration.
Generally, parents have valued my concern and appreciated my forthrightness with them. Moreover, since parents know I’m willing to ask them to hold off, it has given them greater confidence – and joy – when in due season I’ve recommended baptism.
W.A. Criswell’s practice helped me navigate this issue. During Criswell’s half-century tenure at First Baptist Dallas, he encouraged young children – and older children who seemed to not grasp the gospel – to “continue to take steps toward Jesus,” but often instructed their parents to hold off on baptism. He winsomely affirmed the child’s interest in following Christ and encouraged them to that end, but he did so without granting them assurance of conversion or baptizing them straightway.
Criswell’s pattern is instructive for every pastor. You can joyfully and wholeheartedly press the accelerator on the gospel while tapping the brakes on the baptistery. That is not being duplicitous, that is shepherding the flock of God.

Denominationally speaking

While the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has no mechanism (nor should we) for policing such matters, as a convention of churches we do encourage ourselves toward certain practices and expectations. Perhaps in our zeal for increasing baptism numbers, we’ve not always given enough scrutiny to whom we are baptizing. This has contributed, in part, to the plague of unregenerate church members.
As previously referenced, perhaps our trend of younger baptisms should give us pause. I’m reminded of the recent trend in Britain, where many adults who were sprinkled into the Church of England as infants are now formally renouncing their “baptism,” in part because they had no choice in the matter as a babe.
I sometimes wonder how many on SBC church membership rolls, who were baptized so young as to have almost no choice in the matter, would renounce their membership if presented with the option. Or, perhaps more accurately put, if they realized they were still on a church’s membership roll in the first place.
The challenge of unregenerate church membership is systemic within our convention. With some 16 million members on our rolls, but only about a third of those in church attendance on any given Sunday, one doesn’t have to be exceedingly scrupulous to sense a problem.
This is one reason why I’ve invited Paige Patterson to be one of our presenters at Midwestern Seminary’s For the Church luncheon at this year’s SBC. He will answer the question: Why is recovering regenerate church membership one of the SBC’s most urgent needs? Baptizing children too young to understand the gospel and to submit their lives to Christ contributes to this problem.

Parentally speaking

As the father of five young children, I more than understand the parental urge to see one’s children converted. I live with it daily, and strive to balance leading them to Christ without over-leading them into a premature profession of faith.
I sensed this tension in a personal way once while presenting the gospel during a Vacation Bible School rally. It became clear to me I could get most every kid in the room, including my own children, to raise their hand, express their desire to avoid hell, and simply to “repeat after me” to miss it.
My kids, like many who have been reared in the church, are well versed in the facts of the gospel and eternal realities. If conversion was merely getting them to recite a few facts, they would all have been saved since their earliest years.
Parents do not have to be theologians to discern these things. They merely have to be discerning parents. If the primary motivations in a child’s conversion is pleasing parents or avoiding hell, that may well be a sign the gospel is yet to fully take root.

In conclusion

Many of God’s mightiest men in church history experienced conversion at a young age. I do not question their conversion story – I thank God for it. Likewise, when a precocious young child understands the gospel, repents, embraces Christ, and reflects the fruits of conversion, we should celebrate that and baptize them as well. But if they lack any of these ingredients, caution and patience is key.
Let’s be quick to point our children to the Lord Jesus Christ, but let’s be a bit slower to point them to the baptistery. The local church, our children, the integrity of baptism and the witness of our denomination are all too precious for us to mess this up.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason Allen is president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. This article first appeared at Jason Allen’s website,

5/8/2015 10:32:14 AM by Jason Allen, MBTS president | with 0 comments

How a dying church can glorify God

May 7 2015 by Mark Clifton, NAMB

Two truths: A dying church robs God of His glory. Yet it doesn’t have to.
Each year about a thousand churches disappear from the Southern Baptist database, the majority of them closing. God gets no glory when that happens.
Three-fourths of those churches are in metro areas. That means in the areas where we as Southern Baptists have identified we need churches the most, we must start even more churches every year just to catch up with the church death rate.
The answer isn’t just better strategy, nor better preaching or even telling more people about Jesus.
You turn around a struggling church through a passion for the glory of God in all things. This alone must be the beginning and primary motivation for intervening in a dead church, even over worthy goals such as reaching the community, growing the church and meeting needs.
While a new church plant could reach the community and meet needs, replanting a dying church glorifies God by reclaiming a church near death as it does those same things. The purpose of all creation is the glory of God. This is exactly why He created the church. Romans 11:36 proclaims, “Everything is from Him and by Him and for Him. Glory belongs to Him forever!”
But I believe declining churches can once again project the glory of God to their community.
Just ask the people who once made up Birchwood Baptist Church in Independence, Mo. Struggling through years of decline, the church reached out to LifeConnection Church, a six-year-old church plant in the same Kansas City suburb, to see if they might be interested in merging the two churches. Birchwood would provide the building. LifeConnection would provide the young, energetic leadership.
LifeConnection Church had been looking for a permanent location to put down roots in the community, but they were located in another part of the area. Still both churches prayed through the potential merger and late last year voted to merge.
I had the privilege to walk with them through this journey a bit and had a front row seat to what God is doing in this merger. It wasn’t always an easy journey.
For new life to come, leadership has to be handed off. A church that faced years of decline has to be humble enough to follow new leaders. Ministries have to come to an end. Traditions have to cease.
If you’ve ever walked with an aging parent through the last stages of their life, you’ve got a glimpse of what this is like. It’s a painful, confusing, transformational time for your relationship with your parents. It’s similar for a struggling church that merges with a new church plant.
But it’s a process that has to happen. Churches in decline are perfectly designed to get the results they’re getting: Without a change in leadership, decline will continue. It’s a forgone conclusion.
That’s not what’s happened at the church formerly known as Birchwood Baptist Church. Just three months after that merger, the church averages around 300 in attendance. What makes that number particularly impressive is that it’s more than the sum of their parts – the attendance of both churches prior to the merger was less than 300.
What happened? God brought life to a struggling church. People want to be a part of places where transformation isn’t just a word in the sermon but a personal and institutional reality.
And God gets the glory when that happens.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Clifton is the national legacy church strategist for the North American Mission Board. Learn more about legacy church planting at

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Redeeming your building

5/7/2015 10:04:56 AM by Mark Clifton, NAMB | with 0 comments

The gospel on a houseboat

May 6 2015 by Jason G. Duesing, MBTS provost

In the shadow of the Himalayas, amid much cultural chaos, there rests a houseboat. Though modest and rustic, this boat ferries a brotherhood of young men bringing a powerful light of love and truth into a region of great spiritual darkness.
For nearly four months, these men have shared the truth about Jesus Christ freely to any who will listen. They have seen many listeners become friends and their hope is to see many of their friends become brothers.
These represent one of several teams in Midwestern College’s Fusion program, spread out around the globe this spring as a part of their freshman-year missions experience. During my first year as provost at Midwestern, I observed the rigorous physical and academic training these students received while on the seminary and college campus in Kansas City and wanted to see firsthand how their training paid off during their second semester abroad. Hence, that is how I found myself on a drafty houseboat a half a world away in South Asia.
A Midwestern College student engages in conversation aiming to open a man’s heart to the gospel in South Asia. Jason Duesing, provost of the college at Midwestern Seminary, visited with students who lived aboard a rustic houseboat for a semester to share their faith.
Living with this team of college students for the better part of three days taught me a great deal and left me grateful for them and for the supervision they receive from the full-time missionaries on the field. So when asked to lead them in devotions one morning, I wrestled with what to share, since I was really the one doing the learning and receiving from them. But, given that these young men were nearing the completion of their months of service, had only sporadic contact with family and friends, were feeling the effects of the daily pressures of relational evangelism and acute spiritual warfare, I decided merely to tell them what we all need to hear the most.
Just as the apostles Paul (Romans 15:15) and Peter (1 Peter 1:13) wrote to their disciples to remind them of the truth, I wanted to remind them of two things.
First, I told them to remember that the gospel is still for them.
Reflecting on Luke 7:36-50 and the account of the woman who loved much because she had been forgiven much, I said that she is like all of us. In this missionary context where they daily see a lost world’s pursuit of sin and error, it is easy to forget that we who are in Christ were once just as lost. Indeed, this woman reminds us that it is us who should be most mindful of what is at stake and what it is we deserve apart from Christ, and that should drive us back to the gospel and love for God.
An important part of this is the reminder that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We weep at His feet because He died for us and took the punishment we deserve. I said to the students, “I don’t have many words to say here other than to remind you the gospel is still for you and that I wanted to come and look each of you in the eyes and tell you that no matter what you have experienced – highs and lows – no matter what you are feeling or thinking, God loves you. He loves you and He is here with you right now, and the greatest reminder I can give is that the gospel is still for you.”
Second, I reminded them that the gospel still transforms others.
Sharing from something I heard in a sermon on Luke 9 recently, I read the story of James and John and their disparagement of the Samaritan people. However, thanks to the transforming power of the gospel, by the time Luke recounts the activities of John in Acts 8:14, he is seen preaching to those he despised, the Samaritans.
I reminded the students that, as they have seen time and time again over the last few months, the greatest message they have to share is the gospel, and the gospel still transforms people. It is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) and just as John was transformed and was now preaching and loving those he despised, God can use the gospel to transform even the hardest and most distant heart they have encountered in this land. The gospel can transform those they have come to love into disciples and messengers – and it can transform those who hate them and hope they never return.
While I was only with this team of students for a few days sharing their cramped quarters and eating their food, I loved every minute. And now, having returned just a few weeks ahead of these students, I am all the more hopeful for the days ahead. For even though just hundreds of miles away from these students there has been a devastating earthquake, and in our country there is much strife and cultural disintegration, I am hopeful.
I am hopeful because in the midst of these times there is still a God in control – a God who does not change. The gospel is still for you and the gospel can still transform others – and God is still about that work all over the world. For, as just one example, in the shadows of the Himalayas, in the midst of much chaos, there rests a houseboat. And on that small boat, God has brought to a dark land a powerful light of love and truth.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason Duesing is provost of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.)

5/6/2015 10:56:27 AM by Jason G. Duesing, MBTS provost | with 0 comments

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

May 5 2015 by Kimberly Merida

Celebrating Mother’s Day was always a peaceful and joy-filled experience for me as I grew up in a loving, Christian, two-parent home. Possessing a gentle yet competitive spirit, I remember working diligently on the obligatory homemade gift projects we were given as school children in order to present something to my mom that would conjure a smile, thanks and a hug.
I wanted to show her my love and gratitude, while also perhaps inviting a little pat on the back. Mother’s Day served as an annual reminder to say, “Thank you.” To be honest, I never thought deeply about the annual celebration until later into my adulthood.
I have since come to discover that there is a lot of pain, heartache and grief associated with this particular holiday. Ignorance is bliss, right?
I had grown up dreaming less about being a mom and more about one day being a wife. I clung to passages of scripture like Proverbs 3:5-6 that provided instruction for me to trust God in all things. Therefore, I didn’t think much about it. I just knew that in His time I would be married with the traditional two-and-a-half children, white picket fence and a dog. Since those were the examples I saw around me, it seemed like the natural progression of life.
By age 27, I met my best friend, Tony, and began the journey of marriage. During those first couple of years, while we weren’t necessarily trying to get pregnant, we also weren’t avoiding it. Meanwhile, it seemed like everyone around us started getting pregnant.


The awkwardness of being married with no children began to creep in. Well-meaning persons would summon a smile and say, “We are praying for you” or comment at a baby shower, “You’re next!”
I knew God was sovereign over the womb, but I wondered what was going on. Was there something wrong with me?
When God began to open our eyes to the fatherless, it was our theology, not our biology that led us toward international adoption. Seeing in the scripture that God describes himself as the Father of the fatherless and calls His people to care for orphans, compelled us to ask what we could do to care for the fatherless.
Two years after our initial wrestling with that idea – what were we doing to care for orphans? – we found ourselves sitting in a cold, smelly orphanage in the middle of Ukraine.
Our four Ukrainian-born children shuffled into the small office hand-in-hand, cautious and curious. I sometimes try to imagine what must have been going through their minds. Who were these two watery-eyed people smiling at them and asking to become their new mommy and daddy? All I can say is that it was both bizarre and beautiful.
God was working fiercely in my heart. How can a little person made in the image of God, yet not of your flesh and blood become your son or daughter?
This scenario was not what I had in my mind earlier in life. His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are higher.
Six weeks later we came home as a family. Fifteen months after that, we brought our youngest child home from Ethiopia.
“Welcome to the club of motherhood!” others said.
While I appreciated the sentiment, I sensed a prompting in my spirit to caution against assuming a new identity. The reality was, my identity changed at age twelve when, by God’s saving grace, my eyes were opened to the incredible collision of justice and mercy at the cross of Christ. It was then that I was no longer a child of wrath and I became a child of God – an adopted daughter. So, this new status of motherhood was simply a new role to steward, albeit a weighty one.
“He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 113:9 ESV).
Parenting children from broken pasts can have moments of great joy, as well as moments of great heartache. Watching fits of rage dwindle over time and transition to healthier coping behaviors is amazing! The kicking, screaming, clawing and spitting slowly transformed into the ability to, through their tears, talk through the issue at hand.
I witnessed giggles and awed faces at the beach as they dipped their toes in the water and watched waves crash for the first time. I heard exclamations like, “This is the best day of my life,” as we fought crowds at Disney World.
These moments have filled my heart with incredible joy. But there are also times of great setbacks, challenges and questionings. It breaks my heart to hear those same children say, “What kind of mom just gives her child away!” or “It bothers me when people keep asking if I’m adopted. Why do they want to know?”
In the midst of defiant, disrespectful, disobedient and dishonoring behavior, hearing my child scream “You have no idea what it is like to grow up in an orphanage!” or “You are not my real mother!” has wounded me deeply.
It’s tempting to build up walls of protection around my heart. Oh, the ebb and flow of joy and sorrow!
Sometimes these moments of grief come out of nowhere; sometimes my heart feels as if it will burst under the weight of it all. It is a regular fight to reign over my own emotions.
I confess, there are moments that I wish the pain did not exist, or that we could simply forget the brokenness and live forward as if those early years for them never happened.
Sometimes I even forget we became a family through adoption because I often feel our children were always ours – but they weren't. They all came from broken pasts filled with abuse, neglect, death and abandonment.
It is God’s grace that has enabled me to say with great joy and peace that God kept me from being able to have babies so that I could be mom to each of my children. I am so thankful. I would not trade that for the world.
At the same time, I praise the Lord that my identity is not found in being a mother, but in being a daughter of the King. That truth gives me hope in the midst of heartache, courage in the midst of trial and thankfulness for the good gifts that come from his hand.
This Mother’s Day, may we remember those who grieve – those moms in the midst of difficult adoptions, those who battle infertility, step moms and those who have lost a child or mother. May we think of them, pray for them and encourage them to find joy in the Lord.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kimberly Merida is a Christian, wife, mother of five adopted children, musician and justice advocate. She writes at

5/5/2015 12:16:16 PM by Kimberly Merida | with 0 comments

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