News

Church planting personal to NAMB

February 9 2016 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

As North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees gathered for dinner on the eve of their Feb. 2 meeting, the entity’s president, Kevin Ezell, called on several to share how their churches are involved in planting churches and sharing Christ.
 
“I am excited to say that we have trustees who are not only serving as trustees, they are actually out there doing the ministry,” Ezell said.

 
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NAMB photo by John Swain
North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustee Jarrett Stephens, teaching pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, shares a devotion at the opening of NAMB’s Feb. 2 Board of Trustee meeting in Alpharetta, Ga.

During trustees’ Feb. 2 meeting, they also heard reports of church planting and chaplaincy activity throughout North America, including news that preliminary 2015 reporting from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) chaplains shows more than 127,000 gospel presentations with more than 15,000 salvations.
 
Andy Addis, one of the trustees, leads CrossPoint church in rural Hutchinson, Kan., a multi-site church that has grown from just over 100 attendees to 12 campuses with more than 3,000 in the last decade. Recently they started “Church in a Box” to help reach even smaller communities. It allows people to start faith communities right out of their homes, on ranches and farms and in areas unable to support a work with a building. “We’re giving it all away,” Addis said. The new works have the option of linking to CrossPoint or ministering independently.
 
Jay Watkins pastors Redland Baptist Church in Valdosta, Ga. Four years ago his church banded together with others to start “Community Day,” which offers free food, free clothing, free medical services and much more for those in need. Since the event started in 2008, more than 100,000 Valdosta-area residents have attended and more than 2,000 have accepted Christ.
 
“We are a very small country church with a budget of less than $300,000 a year,” Watkins said. “If we can do it, anybody can do it.”
 
Danny de Armas is associate pastor at First Baptist Orlando. His church recently celebrated with Storyline Fellowship Church in Denver as the church plant marked its one-year birthday. First Orlando took in church planter Ben Mandrell and his family of six as they prepared to plant. After seven months, First Orlando sent the Mandrell’s and a dozen other families to launch Storyline. The church is now running more than 500 on Sundays.
 
Also attending the dinner was Wanda Lee, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). Ezell presented Lee, who announced her pending retirement last month, with a gift of appreciation.

 
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NAMB photo by John Swain
“No one loves missionaries in the SBC more than Wanda Lee and the WMU,” said Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as he presented a gift of appreciation to Wanda Lee, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union. Lee recently announced she would be retiring after 16 years in her role. Ezell presented the gift at a dinner on the evening of NAMB’s Feb. 2 Board of Trustee meeting in Alpharetta, Ga.

“Since Wanda became WMU leader nearly $900 million has been given to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering,” Ezell told trustees. “No one loves missionaries in the SBC more than Wanda Lee and the WMU.”
 
Lee, who shared examples of how WMU supports and encourages missionaries, said, “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner. It’s a privilege to serve alongside you.”
 

In other related news, trustees:

  • Received a financial report showing that in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2015-2016, NAMB revenue came in 3.82 percent above expenses despite revenue being down slightly compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

  • Approved adjustments to NAMB’s financial reserves which do not impact the total amount in reserve but allocate more for missionary housing-related expenses, a health care reserve fund and a short-term investment to increase promotion of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

  • Voted to receive the Report of the Independent Auditors for fiscal year 2015. “We are pleased to report that we got an unqualified opinion which means a clean opinion,” said financial services committee chairman David Parks, a member of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

  • Voted to appoint Batts Morrison Wales & Lee, P.A. as NAMB’s independent auditors for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

  • Approved dates for NAMB’s 2019 Board of Trustee meetings. The Board’s public meeting dates will take place Feb. 6, June 10 and Oct. 9, 2019.

Ezell began his president’s report expressing gratitude for the $58 million Southern Baptists gave to the Annie Armstrong Offering in 2015. The goal for 2016 is $70 million.
 
Ezell reminded trustees why they voted in October to send financial help to IMB.
 
“In the SBC we are a family,” Ezell said. “Because of that, when IMB shared what they are going through, we felt it necessary to cut back in our budget. We took $4 million out of our fund for church plants this year so that we can help part of our family while they are in need,” Ezell said. “This was not out of overflow or excess money. It was out of a budget cut.”
 

More multiplying churches

Ezell said that as NAMB continues to help Southern Baptists plant new churches, a new focus for the entity will be to cultivate more plants to become multiplying churches.
 
“Our goal from this point on is going to be helping Southern Baptists plant 1,200 churches a year,” he said. “We are praying that a tenth of those would be multiplying churches. A multiplying church is on a path to being self-sustaining in five years. And within three years has a plan to reproduce itself. We want that to be part of the DNA. We need 120 multiplying churches a year.”
 
Ezell also highlighted NAMB’s recent church planter orientation, plans for the launch of Send Relief at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis in June and several new and existing evangelism strategies and events. In addition, he shared three dates and locations for the 2017 Send Conference that will be presented in partnership with the International Mission Board. The 2017 dates are Feb. 3-4 in Southern California (Long Beach), May 19-20 in Dallas and July 25-26 in Orlando.
 
Ezell showed trustees a baptism service video from Candeo church in Waterloo, Iowa. Candeo is one of many churches planted by Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa.
 
“That’s why we do everything we do,” Ezell told trustees after viewing the video. “The reason we do all of it is not just to plant churches, but to reach people.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.)

2/9/2016 12:32:25 PM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments



Should pastors endorse political candidates from the pulpit?

February 9 2016 by BR staff

The principle known as “separation of church and state” enjoys regular attention in American political discourse. The phrase has been in the public square since 1802, when Thomas Jefferson enshrined the phrase in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, Conn., praising the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment restrictions on the federal government. The historic amendment blocks government authorities from making any law that establishes a state approved religion or impedes the free exercise of religion by any citizen.
 
Although the constitutional constraints technically apply to the government, it is common for Americans to understand the separation of church and state as a double-edged sword.
 
Thus, governmental institutions should not meddle in the establishment or exercise of religion, and religious institutions should not meddle in the establishment or exercise of governmental affairs.
 
The idea is so pervasive that 87 percent of Protestant church leaders said they believe pastors should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit, according to a 2012 survey conducted by LifeWay Research. Only 44 percent said they have personally endorsed candidates for public office, even outside their official church role.
 
Protestant pastors, by and large, seem to agree that church and state should keep a healthy distance. That consensus may be deteriorating, though, at least in terms of public perception.
 
Rafael Cruz, ordained minister and father of U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, said in a recent radio interview with Breitbart News Daily, “Christians have been lied to and have believed the lies, have been drinking the Kool-Aid for too long with things like so-called separation of church and state, which of course is neither in the Constitution nor in the [Declaration of Independence].”
 
He added, “too many pastors across America for too long have been hiding behind the pulpit because of fear, fear of losing their tax exemption.”
 
Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, seems to agree with Cruz’s sentiment. He contended in a recent guest column for the Biblical Recorder that modern political ideologies should not be imposed on the Bible.
 
Varriale made his case in response to a post by Chris Hefner, senior pastor of Wilkesboro Baptist Church, who said preaching the gospel and planting churches must take precedence over political action, referring to the example set by the Apostle Paul and other early Christian missionaries.
 
“Applying the modern notion of separation of church and state to the early church, and subsequently interpreting the Bible as if the apostles approached politics as we do, is a mistake,” said Varriale. “In the apostles’ world, there was no separation of religion and state.”
 
He believes pastors should lead with love, but they should not be afraid to mix religion and politics in their preaching.
 
If the past is any indication, the topic of separation of church and state will remain prominent in public dialogue for the foreseeable future, especially as it relates to politics in the pulpit.
 
The Biblical Recorder wants our readers to know what North Carolina Baptist pastors think about the issues. So, we asked a few to give us their response to this question: Do you intend to endorse any political candidates in your preaching or some other ministry platform? Why or why not?
 
Here are their answers:

 
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Joel Stephens

Joel Stephens, pastor,
Westfield Baptist Church, Westfield
I do not endorse any political candidates in any official pastoral capacity.
 
Pastors hold a sacred trust from the Lord. We are called to “preach the Word” and “rightly divide the Word of Truth.” No pastor can fulfill this God-given responsibility while side-stepping the ethical issues that face modern society. Our mission is to “make disciples,” which includes “teaching [believers] to observe all the things [Jesus] commanded.”
 
In the realm of political action, this means teaching believers the biblical, timeless principles expressed in the scripture and assisting them in applying those timeless principles to the issues we face today.
 
Believers should not shrink from, but rather engage these issues with tenacious, yet loving conviction in the marketplace as well as in the voting booth.
 
But pastors must beware of the temptation to use the platform of the pastorate to cast our influence into areas that are not within the bounds of our responsibility. Officially endorsing a political candidate crosses that boundary, in my opinion.
 
A Spirit-filled, biblically-discipled believer should not have to be told who to vote for. Certainly, pastors can and should give their congregation the tools to make that decision: an explanation of the issues, a biblical response to those issues and resources that explain where each candidate stands on those issues.
 
At that point, in my view, a pastor that has done so has “equipped the saints” for their civic duty. Those believers are then responsible for what they do with this knowledge – “To whom much is given, much is required.”
 
This can be a thin line upon which pastors are called to dance at times. My dance step goes like this: “As your pastor, my job is to equip you to cast your vote in a way that would please King Jesus. I will not tell you who to vote for by name. But, it is your Christian responsibility to vote for the candidate that most closely affirms the teachings of King Jesus. However, if you’d like my personal opinion, ask me in private. I’ll be glad to tell you who I plan to vote for and why.”

 
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Jake Thornhill

Jake Thornhill, senior pastor,
Life Community Church, Jamestown
I have endorsed political candidates in times past and will do so again as the Lord leads. We’ve created a culture that says the pulpit is not for politics, but we fail to understand the issues we’re dealing with today are not political but biblical issues.
 
The Bible is very clear about such issues as debt, money management, abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I believe separation of church and state was never intended to keep the church out of the government but to keep the government out of the church.
 
I strongly believe we have the responsibility to educate our people concerning the issues of our day and endorse those who embrace biblical values and morals. Adrian Rogers once said, “It is inconceivable that God would ordain government and then ask His people to stay out of it.”
 
These are dark and difficult days and we are to expose the darkness with our voice and our vote.

 
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Michael Waters

Michael Waters, pastor,
Parkwood Baptist Church, Concord
I believe the separation of church and state was intended to restrict the government’s rule and keep their power out of the church. Yet, that does not mean the church should not or cannot influence the conscience of the state.
 
The direct question of endorsement, however, is more complex. As a pastor, I should never back down from an issue which the Bible addresses. I should teach my congregation to discern biblically. If I teach them how to discern, then I don’t have to “endorse” a specific candidate.
 
When our hearts are aligned with God’s Word and God’s values, we will in turn support a candidate that reflects the bigger picture and needs of our country. As a Christian and an American citizen, I have a right to express my concern when I think the country continues to deviate from its founding principles.
 
At our church we have formed a cultural impact team that is lay-led and designed to bring awareness and educate folks on the issues our nation faces.
 
My first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, my second is to my country. Paul’s Roman citizenship was important to him and helped him in some cases (Acts 22:22-23:11), but Paul also reminded the church at Philippi that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). I tell my folks often to think and discern by looking through the lens of scripture. Vote the values that God supports, but don’t expect an elephant or a donkey to fix the problems we face. Our only hope is trusting in the “Lamb.”

2/9/2016 12:23:46 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Super Bowl ad slammed by NARAL for ‘humanizing fetuses’

February 9 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

An abortion-rights group’s protest that a Super Bowl ad wrongly engaged in “humanizing fetuses” has drawn protest from several Southern Baptist leaders.
 
During the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, Doritos aired a commercial depicting a husband and wife viewing an ultrasound image of their unborn child. In the ad, the child begins motioning for the Doritos her father is consuming.
 
In response, NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted, “#NotBuyingIt - that @Doritos ad using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses & sexist tropes of dads as clueless & moms as uptight.”

 
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Doritos ad YouTube screen capture

The tweet was one in a series of NARAL Super Bowl tweets aimed at supposedly “sexist” advertisers, according to the group’s Twitter feed.
 
Southern Baptist pastors, entity heads and seminary professors were among the critics of NARAL’s Doritos tweet.
 
Adam Dooley, pastor of Sunnyvale First Baptist Church in the Dallas area, tweeted, “Whatever you do don’t humanize humans. It is bad for business after all. If your business is killing baby humans.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in an online commentary, “The fact that the parents in this ad ... could recognize the ‘product of conception’ on a sonogram as their child was problematic for NARAL. The abortion lobby didn’t want viewers to see on television what every expectant mother can see in a sonogram – that the child within her is a growing human being, not just a blob of dark matter. The ad didn’t ‘humanize’ the ‘fetus,’ God did.”
 
NARAL’s effort to categorize unborn children as less than fully human, Moore wrote, illustrates the reality that “in our sin, we want to keep our illusions – whatever they are – that enable us to silence the conscience within us. We want to, in short, walk in darkness. But Jesus is the ‘light of the world.’”
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Feb. 8 on his podcast The Briefing, “An organization that is so threatened by an ad such as this is an organization that must know at its heart it is based upon a lie. An organization that has to refer to an advertisement featuring the ultrasound of an unborn baby as ‘humanizing fetuses’ is an organization with death at its heart and the stench of death on its breath.”
 
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies and director of the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College, said Doritos and NARAL were both in the wrong, but NARAL was worse.
 
“The @Doritos commercial was tasteless and banal,” Burk tweeted, “but the @NARAL tweet was petulant and inhumane. Doritos wins.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/9/2016 12:18:04 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.H. evangelicals ‘energized’ for primaries

February 9 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When evangelist Franklin Graham held an outdoor rally last month at the New Hampshire state capitol encouraging Christians to live out their faith at the ballot box, organizers hoped 300 people would attend. But 1,500 showed up on the capitol steps in Concord despite sub-zero temperatures.
 
Rich Clegg, director of missions for the New Hampshire Baptist Association, believes the high attendance was symptomatic of an “energized” evangelical electorate in the Granite State that could turn out for today’s (Feb. 9) presidential primaries in greater numbers than anticipated.
 
Believers “that have never really been involved before [in the political process] have gone out of their way to go to several candidate events and to research the issues,” said Clegg, who also serves as pastor of Faith Bridge Church in Manchester, N.H.. “There’s been a different level of energy than I’ve seen in previous election cycles, especially amongst the Christian circle.”

 
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Photo by Ben Ewing
Some 1,500 people gathered at the New Hampshire state capitol in Concord for a Jan. 19 rally encouraging Christians to vote their values.

Evangelicals constitute only 3-6 percent of the population in New Hampshire, depending on how “evangelical” is defined. Yet if political enthusiasm among the state’s evangelicals is similar to that among their counterparts in Iowa, they could exert a disproportionate influence on the election – particularly on the Republican side. Though 25 percent of Iowa’s population is evangelical, according to Breitbart.com, The Washington Post reported 64 percent of GOP caucus goers last week were evangelical.
 
At a Feb. 7 Super Bowl party Clegg attended, there seemed to be “more talk about the primaries than there was about the game,” he said. “There’s a heightened sense of involvement here and prayerfully considering who would potentially make the best next president.”
 
In the Democratic race, the Real Clear Politics New Hampshire polling average for Feb. 2-7 showed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with a 13-point lead over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Among Republicans, businessman Donald Trump led Florida Sen. Marco Rubio by 17 points with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz 1.6 points behind Rubio.
 
Relatively few polls, however, have been conducted since the Feb. 4 Democratic presidential debate and the Feb. 6 Republican presidential debate.
 
Many of New Hampshire’s 3,000 Southern Baptists would identify themselves as Republican, though some self-identify as Democrats or Libertarians, according to Sean Simonton, a North American Mission Board church planting catalyst in New Hampshire.
 
Rubio and Cruz seem to have the highest levels of support among the evangelicals Simonton knows, he said, adding many have said they are impressed with the stands of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina on social issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and religious liberty. There is “a little bit of interest” in Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
 
Cruz and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Clegg said, “have had fairly active outreach to the faith community.”
 
Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, said reports of Trump support among New Hampshire evangelicals may be exaggerated.
 
“The news media keeps telling us that evangelicals are for Trump,” Dorsett said. “But I actually only know one person in New England who I would consider evangelical who likes Trump.” The vast majority that he knows like Cruz or Rubio, with some supporting Carson, he said.
 
One difference between presidential campaigns in New Hampshire and the South, Dorsett said, is that a candidate’s being “extremely outspoken” on social issues in the Granite State could turn off some Granite State voters because most – even in the GOP – don’t tend to include social issues in their calculations of which candidate to support. He noted New Hampshire is the second least religious state in America, according to some measures.
 
Addressing public-square issues like abortion and same-sex marriage presents challenges for pastors seeking to apply biblical teaching on these subjects “because a huge portion of their congregation would not necessarily agree with the pastor’s viewpoint on those kinds of issues,” Dorsett said.
 
“They’re definitely going to teach the truth and preach the Word and bring it up as it’s appropriate,” Dorsett continued. But political engagement “is probably not something they’re going to be extremely active in because it’s not always conducive to church growth.”
 
Despite the challenges of Christian political engagement in New Hampshire, Clegg of the New Hampshire Association believes “we’ll see more Christians going out to vote this primary season than we’re told we’ve had before.”
 
Historically, the church has played a “restraining” role in the culture, Clegg said, “being that moral compass and that voice that brings clarity and truth. I think the church is starting to regain that call.”
 
Based on observations from Facebook, Simonton said Granite State believers seem to be “shifting back and forth over the past few months in who’s getting their support. So it will be interesting to watch” the primaries.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/9/2016 12:06:50 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Our Lottie Moon story

February 9 2016 by BR staff

The Biblical Recorder is sharing some of the stories about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) from churches across the state. The money raised goes to support the International Mission Board (IMB) and its missionaries around the globe.
 

Northside Baptist Church, Burlington

Pastor Dale Steele said, “We are a small church of missions-minded people, many are my age or beyond. I am 82. The church averages 35 in attendance on Sunday morning.” Northside’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in the past seven years hovered around $2,000 each year. This year the congregation agreed to match the total amount of the LMCO from the church’s savings account.
 
Keeping a goal of $2,000 the church members gave $4,000 on the first Sunday of the offering. “We finished with $5,795 which we matched with another $5,795 and sent an offering of $11,590,” Steele said. “The Lord both challenges and rewards graciously all who trust Him, love Him and love the challenge of missions, ‘to pray, to go, and to give.’ Thank you for allowing us to thank God for His grace and love.”

 
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Temple Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Temple’s 2014 LMCO goal was $15,000. In 2015 the church increased the goal to $20,000. Pastor Kelly Bullard said although Temple gathers the offering during December, they also budget a percentage of the year’s receipts for the international missions offering. The December LMCO offering was $21,757.34, surpassing the goal. They added $14,613.68 from the percentage of regular offering receipts throughout the year. The total amount Temple sent to IMB for the LMCO is $36,371.02.
 
Bullard said in July the church commissioned one of their own families to serve in Bulgaria through IMB. That was a major factor in the increased offering, he said. “The Lord really used this family to put a face to missions for our church. Temple has always been a giving church, but when you become a sending church it really changes the church’s perspective on missions and giving.”
 
One Sunday in December the church arranged a live Skype call with the couple in their new field assignment. Bullard added, “As their sending church we desire to support their ministry in every way possible, and we believe the best way we can do that is through our prayers and by giving sacrificially to the LMCO. It really makes a difference when you have a personal connection to a missionary family.”
 

Dublin First Baptist Church and The Lake Church, White Lake

The mission strategy at Dublin FBC and the second campus at the Lake Church is “Here, There and Everywhere,” based on Acts 1:8. Although the church has been strongly involved in mission work in New York and Moldova, the Lottie Moon offering has not increased, “For the past decade we hovered around the $5,000 per year mark in LMCO gifts,” said pastor Cameron McGill. “However, this year God moved in a great way upon the hearts of our people.”
 
It began when they partnered with Temple Baptist in Fayetteville to commission the Williams* family as IMB missionaries to Bulgaria.
 
“This commissioning service was a powerful time of reflection and a turning point in the life of our church,” McGill said.
 
“Sheila Williams* said to our congregation, ‘We are going. ... But how long we will stay is up to God and the faithfulness of God’s people.’ We committed that Sunday morning to get serious this year about the Lottie Moon offering and international missions.”
 
The connection to the Williams family coupled with the “heartbreaking stories of so many of our missionaries coming home prematurely,” led the people at both campuses to dig deep and give sacrificially. The churches gave more in 2015 than the last seven years combined. The total of their offering is $34,685. *Name changed
 

First Baptist Church, Cary

Jay Huddleston, pastor of First Baptist in Cary, reported this year’s total LMCO gifts are $154,246, an increase of almost $50,000 above the 2014 total gifts of $105.882.47. He said the church has always been a strong missions-giving church.
 
“We communicated to the church the IMB shortage which was reported in September and the immediate impact this would have on our missionary personnel of losing 700+ missionaries,” Huddleston said.
 
“Our people sacrificed and reached much deeper this year in an attempt to make up the difference. I believe the feeling throughout the congregation was that if everyone in all of our Southern Baptist churches will sacrifice and cooperate together, then we can make up the difference.”

2/9/2016 11:59:20 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



‘Blue collar missions’ promoted at GO Conference

February 8 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

“To the ends of the earth” was the theme of this year’s GO Conference, held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest. The event focused on international missions, but each of the talks addressed the topic in unique ways.
 
One strategy for doing missions came up repeatedly throughout the Jan. 29-30 conference, harnessing so-called “regular jobs” in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ across the globe.

 
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SEBTS photo
David Platt encourages GO Conference attendees to consider unique ways to live missionally in international contexts through business ventures.

David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, encouraged attendees to consider the limitless, unique ways to live missionally in an international context through business ventures.
 
“Could it be that God is calling us,” Platt said, “not just to leave jobs for the spread of the gospel, but to leverage jobs for the spread of the gospel?”
 
One missionary took a creative approach to financially supporting his evangelistic endeavors. He began buying old, rare rugs made in a specific North African region, Platt said. The missionary arranged for local craftsmen to repair and restore the carpets, making them well-suited for resale.
 
The rugs go for a premium online to “people in New York lofts,” he said. It has become not only financially profitable for the missionary, but the business interactions generate relationship-building opportunities with local villagers that probably wouldn’t occur otherwise.
 
Platt said emphatically, “What if God has designed the globalization of the marketplace for the spread of His gospel among the nations?”
 
During a breakout session titled “Blue Collar Missionary: Missions and the Workplace,” Benjamin Quinn shared a handful of stories that illustrate the importance and biblical foundation of understanding one’s vocation as a missional effort. Quinn, who serves SEBTS as assistant professor of theology and history of ideas, recalled a conversation with his brother that demonstrated the need for all Christians to engage their workplaces with minds set on ministry.
 
Quinn’s brother, Brandon, was vice principal of the high school where the two siblings grew up. Out of curiosity, Quinn asked Brandon about his daily routine in the administrative role. So, Brandon told him of a recent interaction with a student named Cory*.
 
Cory had been in and out of trouble for quite some time, and his offenses were frequently related to the possession of illegal drugs on school property. One day Cory was sent to the vice principal’s office for yet another disciplinary issue, and Brandon began to ask a series of questions to better understand the student’s situation.
 
“Why do we continue to find you with drugs?” he said, along with a few other probing questions.

 
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SEBTS photo
Benjamin Quinn leads a breakout session dedicated to helping attendees see the importance and biblical value of “blue collar missionaries.”

As Cory spoke, Brandon discovered that he didn’t actually have a drug problem. Cory had used drugs, to be sure, but he did not seem to have an addiction.
 
Cory opened up about his family circumstances, explaining that he lived in a single-wide mobile home with his immediate and extended family. It was a crowded and poor living environment that was complicated, he said, by the drug addictions of everyone else in the home.
 
As it turns out, Cory’s father was using him as a drug courier, since minors receive lighter judicial sentences when caught with illegal substances. He placed drugs into Cory’s bag for delivery to other students, who then relayed the drugs to their parents.
 
Cory was caught in an unfortunate and seemingly hopeless family situation, and he needed help.
 
“Do you want out of this?” Brandon asked. “Show me how,” Cory responded, “because right now I don’t see any way out.”
 
Quinn said his brother recounts that interaction with tears. He is compelled to do what he can as a high school vice principal to help Cory and other students.
 
The potential impact that Christian community leaders like Brandon can have on the lives of Cory and others is profound, but it’s not always obvious that such efforts should be valued as biblical, ministry opportunities. Quinn was taken aback when his brother said, after hearing about his work as a professor at the seminary, “I don’t see how what I do matters as much as what pastors, missionaries and seminary professors do.”
 
Quinn emphatically said to the conference breakout session crowd, “How can he say that?”
 
He continued, “There is something that has found its way into our church and into our Christian mindset that suggests … the clerical collar is superior to any other collar.”
 
Quinn acknowledged the centrality of church leadership in the community of faith, but he said centrality does not mean superiority.
 
“It is not as though … what your pastors do is qualitatively more important to Jesus and His mission than economists, politicians, nurses, early childhood educators, welders and beyond,” said Quinn.
 
He used Ephesians 4:7-16 to show that certain leadership gifts – apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers – are given by Jesus “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
 
Christian ministry is not limited to clergy. “Everyone who is a follower of Christ is in ministry, according to Paul,” said Quinn. “I think of it as the most massive mission force in the world. … All of us together are the missionaries of God when we put on our welding mask, when we put on our nursing scrubs and when we put on our business suit. You’re suiting up for mission.”
 
*Name changed

2/8/2016 1:28:26 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



CMP’s Daleiden unabashed by legal challenges

February 8 2016 by Bob Brown, WORLD News Service

Although he faces legal challenges in two states over his undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood, Center for Medical Progress (CMP) director David Daleiden told supporters he remains confident in his eventual exoneration.
 
After releasing a new undercover video Feb. 2, Daleiden held a webcast with three of his attorneys to update the cases against him in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.
 
Planned Parenthood is lashing out because the baby parts issue could take them down,” Daleiden said. He and other CMP investigators face jail time and stiff fines stemming from criminal charges and civil lawsuits.

 
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Screenshot from C-Span and the Washington Journal
David Daleiden

On Aug. 21, overturning an earlier emergency injunction, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge allowed CMP to release undercover footage of Daleiden’s meeting with representatives from fetal tissue broker StemExpress. Despite that favorable ruling, Charles LiMandri, president and chief counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, said during the webcast the case against CMP has not gone away. StemExpress is suing Daleiden and CMP employee Sandra Merritt for invasion of privacy, even though the conversation took place in a restaurant.
 
LiMandri also said exceptions to California’s prohibition against recording without consent of all parties include cases motivated by one party’s intent “to protect a person from violence.” A baby born alive after an abortion and then killed and dissected for his or her tissue and organs meets this standard, LiMandri argued.
 
According to testimony submitted in the StemExpress case by Theresa Deisher, a bio-tech firm president and patent-holding adult stem cell researcher, “several scientific articles” report cases where “an apparatus is hooked up to the [aborted baby’s] heart to keep it alive and beating.” For optimal use, certain tissues must be harvested no more than five minutes after death. Evidence from CMP videos indicated to Deisher it is “practically certain” some babies whose cadavers StemExpress trafficked had been kept alive after they were aborted. Daleiden and CMP therefore “had a reasonable belief that StemExpress has committed a felony involving violence against [a] person,” Deisher said in her statement.
 
The Los Angeles Superior Court has yet to indicate when it will rule on the invasion of privacy lawsuit.
 
As WORLD reported previously, Daleiden and CMP also face lawsuits in northern California. On Jan. 14, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and seven California affiliates filed a lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court against CMP investigators, alleging racketeering, invasion of privacy and other illegal activity. During the webcast, Catherine Short, vice president of legal affairs for the Life Legal Defense Fund, noted this lawsuit “stopped short of bringing a defamation claim” or charges of lying against CMP. Short added that a July 31 lawsuit brought by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), also filed in San Francisco, continues to block release of some NAF conference video footage as yet unseen by the public.
 
But Feb. 2, CMP released a new undercover video of “previously overlooked” material apparently filmed in April at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s (PPGC) abortion center in Houston. In the video, the center’s director of research, Melissa Farrell, describes “two levels of invoicing” for sales of aborted babies’ tissue and organs, including “brain, kidney, thymus, liver, spleen, femur.” Farrell states her affiliate would charge “per consent” (per abortion) but also levy an “overall administrative fee.” Her department’s practice “contributes so much to the bottom line of our organization,” Farrell said in the video. But, according to Daleiden that violates a Texas law that prohibits the buying and selling of human organs for “valuable consideration.”
 
On Jan. 25, a Houston-area grand jury overlooked evidence against PPGC and instead brought indictments against Daleiden and Merritt for allegedly tampering with a government record and offering to buy or sell human organs. But Peter Breen, a member of the Illinois General Assembly and special counsel for the Thomas More Society, called the charges “baseless.” During the webcast, Breen noted journalists have often misrepresented their identities during investigations of alleged criminal activity. He pointed to a 60 Minutes story aired recently in which an undercover investigator used hidden cameras to make secret recordings of New York lawyers who were possibly “concealing questionable funds.”
 
Daleiden surrendered Feb. 4, posted $3,000 bond and made two court appearances. Merritt turned herself in Feb. 3. She was booked and released on a $2,000 bond. Merritt has been offered probation in a settlement, but her attorneys had not indicated if she would take the deal.
 
Breen said he would file a motion Feb. 4, when Daleiden and Merritt turn themselves in at the Harris County courthouse, to quash the charges.
 
The state of Texas is still considering criminal charges against PPGC officials. Daleiden’s next hearing is slated for March 28.
 

Related Stories:

‘Even abortion doctors have human dignity,’ says CMP founder
CMP activists indicted by Houston grand jury

2/8/2016 1:20:33 PM by Bob Brown, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



LifeWay celebrates Thom Rainer’s 10th anniversary

February 8 2016 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

In a special chapel service Feb, 3, LifeWay Christian Resources recognized Thom S. Rainer for 10 years of service as president and CEO.

 
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Photo by Kent Harville
In a special Feb. 3 chapel service, LifeWay Christian Resources recognized Thom S. Rainer for 10 years of service as president and CEO.

Rainer was praised for his commitment to Christ and his family, as well as leadership during tumultuous cultural and business changes.
 
Gary Richardson, LifeWay Board of Trustees chairman, spoke of Rainer as a selfless, transparent and courageous leader. Before presenting Rainer with a gift, he relayed a fellow trustee saying, “LifeWay is impacting and influencing the world as never before for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
The celebration kicked off with music from Grammy Award-winning artist Mandisa. As a former LifeWay customer service employee, she shared how she “learned the power of the Bible” from her time with the company.
 
Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay’s resources division, presented a plaque from the LifeWay Executive Leadership Team thanking Rainer for his “visionary guidance and unwavering leadership.” Geiger told him, “In you, I see a man who loves Jesus and leads as someone who has been loved by Him.”
 
Selma Wilson, vice president of Organizational Development, recalled representing the employees at Rainer’s inauguration and expressed gratitude that she could do that again in her current role for his 10-year celebration. “We as an employee team are grateful that, as a leader, you care more about tomorrow than today,” she told Rainer.
 
Wilson also introduced a video created by LifeWay employees that highlighted several expressing their appreciation for Rainer’s leadership and mentioning what they feel he has done best as president.
 
Executive Vice President Brad Waggoner said the one word he would choose to describe Rainer would be “courage.” He then described several ways Rainer has displayed courage in his decision to come to LifeWay and his leadership since arriving.

 
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Photo by Kent Harville
Gary Richardson, LifeWay Board of Trustees chairman, led a special chapel service celebrating Thom S. Rainer’s 10th anniversary as LifeWay president and CEO.

Rainer’s wife Nellie Jo, their three sons and daughters-in-law, and nine grandchildren joined Rainer for the celebration. As they did during his inauguration, Rainer’s sons, Sam, Art and Jess, spoke of the impact their father made on their lives.
 
“When I think of my father,” Sam said, “I think of Ephesians 6:4. ‘Fathers bring up children in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ I’ve had that in my life.” Sam noted that his father loves the Lord, his wife, his family and LifeWay. “He loves this place, obviously not because of the building because you’re selling it,” he joked. “He loves this place because he loves the people here.”
 
Art remembered how their father always told his sons three things: “I love you. I’m proud of you. And I’m glad you are my son.” He has carried that tradition on to his own children and wanted to “return the favor” to his parents by telling them those three things.
 
Jess shared a list of his father’s accomplishments in the last 10 years, some serious and some humorous. “Lots of things have changed, but some things didn’t,” he said. “I know in another 10 years I’ll be able to stand here and say the same thing, ‘I love you, and I’m proud of you.’“
 
To close the service, Rainer expressed gratitude to his family, LifeWay’s leadership team and employees. “This isn’t about me. It’s about God working through you,” Rainer said. “You are making LifeWay what she is today.”
 
Significant advancements during Rainer’s LifeWay tenure:

  • LifeWay has experienced three consecutive years of growth in ongoing curriculum after nearly 30 years of decline. Helping fuel the growth is The Gospel Project, a group Bible study focused on theology. Initially projected to draw 30,000 users, the curriculum reached 1 million weekly users this past fall.

  • Rainer led the strategic sale of LifeWay’s campus and secured a new location in downtown Nashville.

  • During his time as president, LifeWay has made several key acquisitions including: WORDsearch, Student Life and Berean Christian Stores.

  • Rainer has authored more than two dozen books, including his most recent books I Will: Nine Traits of an Outwardly Focused Christian, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and the award-winning and best-selling I Am a Church Member.

  • His website, ThomRainer.com, had more than 7.5 million views last year. In the past 12 months, the “Rainer on Leadership” podcast had 1 million downloads.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

2/8/2016 1:14:28 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Bay area’s big need for new churches

February 8 2016 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

As the nation prepared for the first Super Bowl in the Bay Area in nearly three decades, Southern Baptists turned their eyes to a changing mission field – but one with a consistent need for new churches.
 
“Things are booming economically in the Bay Area,” said Rich Johnstone, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send North America city missionary for San Francisco. “At the same time, there’s not a corresponding boom spiritually – just yet. However, we are starting to see some momentum.”
 
Only 7 percent of metro San Francisco residents affiliate with an evangelical church – one of the lowest percentages of all of North America’s large cities. The region has only one Southern Baptist church for every 17,139 people. Santa Clara, the site of Super Bowl 50, is about 50 miles from San Francisco.

 
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Photo courtesy Brett Butler
Brett Butler, right, baptizes Cornelius Hornage. Butler and his wife Patti moved in 2015 from Kentucky to Redwood City, Calif., to plant a church as part of Send North America: San Francisco.

Through Send North America: San Francisco, Southern Baptists have been working together the last few years to impact the spiritual destiny of the area by starting new churches. Southern Baptists have been in the Bay Area since the days of the Gold Rush (First Baptist San Francisco was the first Protestant church in California in 1849). But the Bay Area has always been a tough mission field – particularly during the last few decades, Johnstone said.
 
A new generation of Southern Baptist church planters is trying to change that. Johnston noted that Epic Church – planted in the heart of the city’s financial district – has celebrated its 5-year anniversary.
 
Johnstone also pointed to new church planters that are just beginning evangelistic works throughout the metro area. Brett Butler, a church planting apprentice in Redwood City, Calif., first felt called into missions a decade ago, not long after he became a follower of Jesus. Yet for eight years, he said, God left an important part of his family’s mission call unknown – where He was sending them.
 
Two years ago, while sitting in Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfurt, Ky., Butler started reading Annie Armstrong Easter Offering materials that featured Epic Church and its pastor Ben Pilgreen. Almost immediately, God began to pull Brett and his wife Patti toward the Bay Area. Butler had attended college at the nearby University of California at Berkley, and his parents lived in Southern California.
 
“The whole Bay Area just made a ton of sense, looking back at our lives,” Butler said. “So we went back home and clicked the ‘Mobilize Me’ button on the NAMB website. And they had a great system – people emailed us and called us. We had trips out here. Some amazing God-things happened while we were out here. It just became really clear that this is what God wanted us to do.”
 
One of those “God-things” led to the couple leading their first person to faith in Christ before they even arrived on the field full-time. While visiting Redwood City, they met Gina Plute, who asked them why they were there. When the Butlers told Plute they were interested in starting a church, she told them she thought they should start one in Redwood City.

 
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Photo courtesy Brett Butler
Brett, back right, and Patti Butler, front left, study the Bible with Cornelius Hornage, back left, and his friend Rubin Martinez at a local iHOP restaurant. Hornage has come to faith in Christ and been baptized by Butler since the couple arrived in Redwood City, Calif., last May. 

Although she had experienced much success in life, she felt like something was missing. Finding out more about God, she thought, may be that missing link.
 
“So when do we get started?” Plute asked.
 
The Butlers then had to tell her that they lived in Kentucky, and it would take them some time to get started. Still they offered to do a Bible study with Plute over the Internet. Starting in December 2014, the three of them studied the book of John together. Last February, as the three studied John 3:16, Plute committed her life to Christ. Three others have come to faith in Jesus since the Butlers arrived in the Bay Area in May 2015.
 
Redwood City is about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. As the county seat of San Mateo County, it has about 76,000 people and a small evangelical presence, Butler noted.
 
Butler’s partnership with California Southern Baptists – and Southern Baptists in general – plays a crucial role in his church planting efforts, he said. Besides the financial resources through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that make it possible to live in one of the most expensive areas in the country, he pointed to the relational support provided by Southern Baptists.
 
“We’ve gotten hand-written encouragement cards in crayon from third-grade Bible study classes in Florida that we’ve never met,” Butler said. “It just brings tears to your eyes. We have people write us from Virginia, Ohio and Texas and places like that.”
 
Noting the significant spiritual need in the Bay Area, Johnstone said partner churches from outside of the region play a critical role in reaching people there. Because of the area’s diversity, many of the Bay Area church planters lead language churches or culture-specific churches.
 
“We love to partner with traditional large-launch church plants in the area, but we also have a corresponding need for churches who will come alongside these planters who speak a different language or come from a different culture,” Johnstone said.
 
For more information about Send North America: San Francisco, visit www.namb.net/SanFrancisco. Learn more about the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering at www.AnnieArmstrong.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

2/8/2016 1:05:16 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



Paradise Lost: A beautiful island with dirty secrets

February 8 2016 by Charles Braddix, IMB

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – Something’s gone wrong in paradise – terribly wrong.
 
Considered a gem of the Indian Ocean, the island has it all – turquoise-colored waters, white sand beaches, crimson sunsets, listing palm trees and exotic sail boats. Tropical fruits are in abundance, and markets overflow with the island’s aromatic spices: vanilla, clove, cinnamon, anise, black pepper and more.
 
Besides its romantic beaches and world-class tourist resorts, the island boasts of pristine rainforests, national parks that feature the unique baobab tree, the world’s only natural habitat of the lemur, hardwoods made into treasured artifacts, varied marine life and coral reefs, and a cuisine built on French and Malagasy traditions with a seafood lover’s mix thrown in.
 
Ninety percent of Madagascar’s plant and animal life is indigenous only to the island.

 
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IMB photo by Wayne Littlefield
Sex tourism is big business in Nosy Be, a large island off Madagascar’s northern coast. Local prostitutes are always on the lookout for new clients, so it is common for tourists to encounter prostitutes while walking the beaches here.

Beneath the surface of it all, however, an evil lurks, permeating the very heart of society.
 
On a small island off the coast of northern Madagascar, a boat pulls ashore. Those aboard seek to purchase local children, especially girls, who will later be trafficked. Down in the southern part of the country, women are put on the auction block and sold to the highest bidder. All night orgies ensue. Elsewhere dozens of young women nightly parade themselves in front of foreign men who gather with the intention of hiring girls for the night. Deals are negotiated and struck, and couples go off into the dark.
 
All across the island, young children wield sledge hammers, crushing stone sold for construction purposes. In a major tourist district of Madagascar, households designate which baby girls will grow up to be “their” prostitutes, earning money for the families. Nearby, two foreigners are lynched, suspected of harvesting organs from a young child.
 
Some acts are openly visible, while others are quietly whispered. Some can be proved, and others can be only suspected and speculated.
 
According to locals, it all started when the French colonized Madagascar in the late 1800s. Following the arrival of the colonists, prostitution evolved, and over the years this illicit sex trade grew into something much more sinister than mere street corner prostitution. Today sex tourism, human trafficking, exploited labor and, some claim, even organ harvesting abound.
 
What’s going on is shocking and appalling, many say, but little embarrassment or shame seems to settle on those who live here. For them, this is life; it’s how they live and survive.
 
On an interior wall of an abandoned and dilapidated hotel in northern Madagascar, a graffiti artist depicts the hopes and aspirations of a young woman. She sits dreaming of things beyond her grasp at the moment – money, travel, fashion. The artwork drastically contrasts its surroundings, the here and now.
 
In the airport of the nation’s capital, a poster pleads with new arrivals, “Stop Sex Tourism.” Such messages are also needed on the island’s beaches, in its hotels and bars, on its streets at night, and in its city parks – in the places people are commonly exploited.
 
Those who minister and serve among Christians across the island see what’s going on, but little is being done to reach out to those caught up in a dark world where humans are commodities – bought, sold and used, often for ridiculously low prices.
 
Local Christians agree on one thing, though: discipleship is the solution. They agree on something else as well. They want help – help in reaching out to those being exploited, help in training others to reach out, help in evangelism, help in discipleshi, and help in educating and mentoring.
 
Three International Mission Board (IMB) journalists went to Madagascar to hear from those who are being exploited and those who could do something about it. They talked with pastors, prostitutes and missionaries from various organizations. Visit stories.imb.org/africa to see the entire series written by these journalists.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Charles Braddix is a writer for IMB based in London.)

2/8/2016 12:43:21 PM by Charles Braddix, IMB | with 0 comments



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