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Texas church committed to local & global ministry

April 11 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Every day since devastating tornadoes touched down in rural communities northeast of Dallas this past December, First Baptist Church of Farmersville has been helping people recover.
 
Three or four times annually the last four years, the Texas church has ministered to an unreached people group in Senegal, West Africa. In January, members worked with an Iowa church in ministering to a nearby people group.

 
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Submitted photo
Members and guests of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, at the 150 Homecoming Celebration. The current church building was constructed in 1900.

The outreaches appear to demonstrate First Baptist Farmersville’s commitment to both local and international ministry. Not only that, but the church embraced the “1 Percent Challenge” to increase its giving to the Cooperative Program (CP), raising to 11 percent the 10 percent portion of undesignated gifts it had given to the program for 30 years.
 
“God willing, we’ll do what we can to support the Great Commission through the Cooperative Program,” said Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Farmersville since 1999. “I keep telling people what we’re doing locally and globally is very important, but the most effective thing we do is funding through the Cooperative Program.”
 
The Southern Baptist Convention CP is the mechanism Southern Baptist churches use to cooperatively support local, state and international ministries.
 
“The most productive thing we do to preach the gospel to all nations is to write a check each week to fund missions through CP,” Barber said. “The Cooperative Program is a conduit. It’s not a destination; it’s a pathway.”
 
Upwards of 300 people participate each week in Sunday worship at the Farmersville church. Children’s ministries include Awana, Trail Life USA, American Heritage Girls, 4-H and Upward Sports. Barber’s wife Tracy Barber heads the child care response unit for the Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief ministry and also is involved at the national level.
 
The church hosts the town food pantry and served as a shelter and county response center after the December tornados.
 
“We’re regularly reaching out to help people, such as building ramps and porches,” the pastor said. “We are the church in town, when people need help paying a bill, they come to us.”
 
The church partners with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in ministry in the Rio Grande Valley and with a Montana church in the planting of Crossroads Baptist Church in Four Corners, Mont. In 1996, First Baptist Farmersville started Iglesia Bautista Immanuel in Farmersville and is making plans to partner with a 2017 church plant in Montreal, Canada, for West Africans.

 
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Bart Barber

“We were involved in Cuba, in helping a London (England) church over a rough patch, and we’ve also been to Mexico several times,” Barber said. “Southern Cross Ministries took us to Thailand and Hong Kong.”
 
Helping people in the church’s hometown of about 3,500 has helped grow the church.
 
“We don’t have a college or university here, so people moving in tend to be families, and as a congregation we minister to people through family faith ministries,” Barber said. Through such activities as Upward Basketball and mountain climbing trips, the church shares the gospel.
 
“Also, we respond at difficult times and that has been helpful,” he said. “We’ve seen some fruit” from post-tornado ministry.
 
Participation in ministry helps deflect the increasing secularism seen “even in the Bible Belt,” he said. “We see even some children who grow up in church who hear the call of atheism and soft secularism. I think also we face the challenge of radically shifting morality in our country, even into the church.”
 
Barber, who was called to preach at 11 and has pastored since his junior year in high school, attends annual national and state Southern Baptist meetings, taking his wife and their two homeschooled children.
 
The 11 percent, $80,000, the church gives to the CP, Barber said, is indicative of his interest in the SBC.
 
“I wouldn’t hire an $80,000-a-year employee and not supervise him, not take an interest in what he is doing,” he said. “Besides, going to the annual meetings is the way our church has a voice in the Cooperative Program activities of our convention.”
 
It was at an SBC annual meeting in 2011 that Barber heard Tom Elliff, then president of the International Mission Board, challenge churches to adopt an unreached, unengaged people group. Barber took the challenge back to his membership, and went to every age group, even preschoolers, to ask them to pray about the outreach.
 
“I see all the more the beauty of the Cooperative Program because of what we’re doing in Senegal,” Barber said. “We know this people group exists because of CP. IMB-funded missionaries made the first contact and connected us with them.
 
“The primary thing we do there is evangelistic work,” he said. “We walk up to somebody’s house and see if they’re interested in talking. We tell them a couple stories out of the Bible and if they’re open to that, tell them the gospel.”
 
War-torn for 30 years, Senegal is not an easy place to minister, Barber said. Highly venomous snakes are among the wildlife. In the Casamance region of southern Senegal, landmines remain prevalent, and there is danger of encountering a “hot zone” of flying bullets. Islam is the dominant religion, although the 2010 Pew Research study, “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa,” found that 58 percent of the general population of Senegal embraces the traditional religious practice of ancestral worship, common to animism.
 
“[Animism is] a very oppressive religion that builds fear and guilt into the people who adhere to it, and most of them know there’s no future in it,” Barber said. “When we tell about the power Jesus has over evil spirits, that generates a lot of interest in people hearing about the gospel.”
 
To date, 28 people in Senegal have made professions of faith in Jesus through First Baptist Farmersville’s evangelism, Barber said.
 
“We talk about Senegal at least monthly, mostly in the context of reporting back or requesting prayer for a trip we’re about to take,” Barber said. “We ask people to go to an active war zone and live without air conditioning or running water, and walk in the sun and in the jungle in Africa eight hours a day. And every time we go, people ask by name about everyone who has gone before. They want to see you again.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a Baptist Press national correspondent based in Utah.)

4/11/2016 11:09:20 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay moves swiftly toward new headquarters

April 8 2016 by Lisa Green, LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay Christian Resources appeared to leave little doubt of its aggressive timetable April 6 for construction of its new building, breaking ground for new headquarters just hours after closing the purchase of the property.
 
Within two years, LifeWay expects to move 1,100 employees into a new office building on 2.5 acres in Capitol View, a mixed-use urban development in Nashville’s central business district.

 
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LifeWay employees gathered under a large tent on the wind-swept site of the ministry’s new headquarters building in downtown Nashville to pray and dedicate the location.

On April 6, the future site of the nine-story, 250,000-square-foot building was primarily dirt and gravel, with front-end loaders waiting idly beside a huge white tent. Hundreds of employees gathered for a brief ceremony to pray and dedicate the new location.
 
“There’s really a singular purpose to this – to celebrate through prayer,” LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer told the assembled employees.
 
Describing the future of the new property, Rainer said, “It’s going to be amazing to see what will happen. Lives will be changed and people will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The only thing we can do in response is say, ‘God, to You be the glory,’ and pray that every day we will be used by Him.”
 
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, expressed thanksgiving for LifeWay’s legacy of commitment and quality. “We are proud to be partners with this organization,” he said.
 
Several LifeWay employees then led in prayer for the project’s builders and architects, for employees and the surrounding community, and for churches across the nation and around the globe.
 
The groundbreaking ceremony coincided with a celebration of the 125th anniversary of LifeWay, established in 1891 as the Baptist Sunday School Board. Its downtown Nashville campus eventually expanded to 14.5 acres, more than the ministry needs today.

 
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LifeWay president and CEO, Thom S. Rainer, led employees in a chapel service celebrating the ministry’s 125-year history prior to a groundbreaking and prayer service for the ministry’s new building.

In November 2015, LifeWay sold the property to San Diego-based Southwest Value Partners, a private real estate investment firm. The new owner plans to redevelop the site, but LifeWay will continue to occupy part of the property until its new building is complete.
 
Two months ago, LifeWay announced plans to build in Capitol View.
 
In a chapel service for employees before the groundbreaking, Rainer outlined LifeWay’s 125-year history through the accomplishments of its eight previous presidents, from entrepreneurial founder J.M. Frost, “one of my heroes of the faith,” to Rainer’s immediate predecessor, James Draper.
 
Rainer noted a worldwide shift toward digital technology since his own tenure began in 2006. Preparing to move to a new location during these years “has been a God-infused effort,” he said.
 
“Remember this place fondly – remember how God has worked in this place – but remember that the God of the Old and the New Testament is not limited to a place,” Rainer told employees. “As we move to Capitol View, the God who has been with us for 125 years will be with us in the future.”
 
Employees then boarded shuttles to the new location, where Rainer and his executive leadership team tossed dirt into the air with ceremonial shovels.
 
Construction of the new building is expected to begin almost immediately.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is managing editor of Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources.)

4/8/2016 11:19:59 AM by Lisa Green, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



California church plant baptizes 84 in 18 months

April 8 2016 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

While everyone else at New Song Parkside Church stood to sing – including Rick Hynes’ wife Antoinette, – Rick stayed in his seat with his arms crossed.
 
Later, when pastor Jim Britts was able to spend some time with Hynes, the veteran of nine Marine deployments told him, “There’s no way God could forgive me for some of the things I’ve done overseas.” When Britts asked Hynes how he dealt with the guilt, Hynes replied, “Well, I play video games and try not to lash out at my kids.”

 
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 Photo courtesy New Song Parkside
Jim Britts pastors New Song Parkside in San Diego. In less than two years the church as seen 84 Baptisms.

“You need a new strategy,” Britts said. He explained the forgiveness of Jesus and the gospel, and Hynes gave his life to Christ. The next Sunday, Hynes told him after the service, “Hey, Jim, don’t tell anybody, but I cried in church for the first time in my life.”
 
Hynes is not the only one at New Song Parkside whose life has changed. In the San Diego church’s first 18 months, they have baptized 84 people.

 

The Parkside Three-Week Challenge

Rick and Antoinette – and dozens of couples like them – connected with congregation through Kids Unleashed, a church program that offers free lessons to children in their North County, Calif., neighborhood. The wide variety of options – basketball, soccer, dance, cheer, drum line, magic, guitar, piano, sign language and more – draws young families to the church on Sunday mornings. Hundreds of kids join the activities on the playground and in classrooms of Temple Heights Elementary School, while New Song Parkside is holding its second worship service of the day in the school’s cafetorium.
 
Planted in September 2014 as a fourth campus of the original New Song Community Church in Oceanside, about 130 of New Song Parkside’s 250 adults will be engaged with Kids Unleashed for its seven-week run this spring. During the program’s closing ceremonies, Britts presents what he calls “the Parkside Three-Week Challenge.”
 
“I say, ‘Hey, would you check out Parkside for three weeks? You’ve come once. There’s only two more to go. At the end of three weeks, if this doesn’t feel like something good for your family, let me know and I will personally help you find a church that would be. It’s not about Parkside, it’s about finding a place where you can see all God has in store for your life.’“
 
The church’s content is for believers, but the programming is for seekers, Britts said.
 
“We have the seeker – the person who’s not interested in God – in mind every single week,” he said. “We have a sign out front, as you walk in, that says ‘No perfect people allowed.’ I tell everyone that sign’s out there so I’m allowed to come to my own church.

 
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Photo courtesy New Song Parkside
Rick (left) and Antoinette Hynes, are two of the 84 members of New Song Parkside that have accepted Christ and followed up with baptism since the church launched in September 2014. They Hynes and their two sons are part of the New Song community.

“We are trying to take people, wherever they are in their spiritual journey,” Britts noted, “and show them that God has awesome plans for them and their families and wants them to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

 

A need for new creations

The difference that can be made by transformed lives is badly needed in North County, Britts said.
 
More than 56 percent of the area’s residents are “Nones” with no religious affiliation at all, contrasted with a national average of 25 percent. The community is 60 percent Hispanic, and many of those parents speak little or no English, which makes it more difficult for their children to succeed in school. In fact, the four elementary schools closest to New Song Parkside rank 20 percent or more below California’s state testing average. And, not unrelated, the community adjacent to the church ranks sixth in the entire United States for percentage of people in prison and in recovery programs.
 
New Song Parkside is the first congregation planted in the neighborhood in 25 years, and they don’t intend to be the last.
 
“We are definitely a reproducing church,” Britts said. “We are partnering with a sister church in Mexicali to start a church there. We have one – and we are hoping two – church planters in our church in the next 18 months, and we are going to send them out with people. We are starting a Spanish service with a pastor who is from our community.”
 
For New Song Parkside, however, church planting isn’t about growing a big congregation.
 
“I think the best thing I have ever done for somebody discipleship-wise is have them plant a church with me,” Britts said. “Planting churches changes the lives of the people who plant. We think it should be impossible to come to Parkside for three years and not be part of a church plant.”
 
Visit New Song Parkside Church at newsongchurch.com/locations/parkside.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is a freelance writer in Marietta, Ga.)

4/8/2016 11:08:56 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ben Sells to lead Ouachita Baptist University

April 8 2016 by Trennis Henderson, Ouachita Baptist University

Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) trustees unanimously elected Ben R. Sells as Ouachita’s 16th president during a special called meeting April 7.
 
Sells will begin serving as president-elect this month and officially will assume the presidency June 1 of the 1,500-student university in Arkadelphia affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
 
Sells, who has extensive leadership experience in higher education, fundraising and missions involvement, served as vice president for university advancement at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., from the fall of 2006 to January of this year.

 
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Ben Sells

Sells directed record fundraising efforts during his tenure at Taylor and also had responsibilities for university strategic planning. Taylor has been ranked for nine consecutive years as the No. 1 baccalaureate college in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, the same ranking held by Ouachita in the South region before moving to a national ranking in 2012.
 
Following an in-depth nine-month presidential search process, Sells’ election marks the first time in more than 60 years that a newly elected Ouachita president has not had previous ties to Ouachita as an alumnus, staff member or trustee.
 
“The presidential search committee’s desire to do a national search was different than all of our presidential searches in recent history,” said Jay Heflin, chairman of the OBU board of trustees. “However, I believe that this has resulted in our eyes being opened to several opportunities that we have not been able to see in the past. And, ultimately, I believe that this national search has brought Ouachita a new president who is wonderfully gifted in many ways.
 
“Dr. Sells has a broad base of Christian, liberal arts experience and shares the values of our university honed by serving at a similar campus in a small-town setting,” noted Heflin, a 1993 Ouachita alumnus who served as an ex officio member of the search committee. “His experience and giftedness is a wonderful complement to the unique set of needs that Ouachita has at this time in her history.”
 
Telling trustees he is “deeply honored and humbled” by the opportunity to serve as Ouachita’s president, Sells pledged “my solidarity with you in an unwavering commitment to steward, to sustain and to strengthen Ouachita’s mission.”
 
Sells succeeds Rex Horne who resigned as president last year to accept the presidency of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities. Charles Wright, retired dean of Ouachita’s school of fine arts, has served as interim president since last August and will continue to serve in that role through the current academic year.
 
Sells holds a bachelor of science degree from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., and two degrees, a master of arts and a Ph.D. in higher and adult education, from the University of Missouri in Columbia. In 2012 he earned a certificate from Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management and as an undergraduate he participated in the Oxford Overseas Study Program.
 
Other higher education experience includes serving as vice president for admissions and student life and director of university ministries at Southwest Baptist University and as an English instructor at Huaiyin Teachers College in China. He also has served as vice president for Avis Industrial Corporation, senior vice president of development for Enactus, coordinator of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s International Learning Center and director of the IMB’s International Centre for Excellence in Leadership.
 
Sells’ wife Lisa is the co-founder and executive director of Lift, an after-school faith-based initiative for elementary school students. They are the parents of three grown children and a high school freshman.
 
Gene Whisenhunt, immediate past chairman of OBU’s trustees and a 1983 Ouachita alumnus, served as chairman of the presidential search committee. Reflecting on the committee’s national search, he said, “There was interest in the position from many wonderful and qualified candidates. After consideration of the needs of Ouachita and her mission, our steps led us to Dr. Ben Sells. He has vast experience in many leadership positions and a passion for Christian higher education. We believe Dr. Sells will provide exceptional leadership of Ouachita Baptist University.”
 
Affirming “a confident call specifically to Ouachita,” Sells described his call as missional, educational, historical, denominational, geographical and relational.
 
While his past experience “significantly shapes the way I want to proceed here,” Sells told trustees, “I don’t come to Ouachita with a specific agenda for the future. I believe that such a plan will emerge as we seek the wisdom of the Lord, listen to the voices of the Ouachita family and engage in candid and respectful conversations.”
 
Although “we’re living in a disruptive time for higher education,” he said it poses “a pivotal moment for Christian colleges. At our core, we are focused on forming people – what Ouachita so importantly describes as ‘fostering a love of God and a love of learning’ – and that must remain foremost.
 
“We must not be tempted to do only what it takes to survive when it is possible to thrive,” Sells declared. “We must not be people of too much fear and too little faith. That is not our calling as Christians and that is not the character of this university.
 
“I cannot imagine a better time, a better opportunity for Ouachita Baptist University to lead the way in creating a more viable, more substantive and more enduring model of education,” he said. “This is Ouachita’s opportunity to further define, to differentiate and to distinguish itself as a Christian university, as a Baptist college, that will provide to students unparalleled value over time.”
 
Looking toward Ouachita’s future challenges and opportunities, Sells said key perspectives that will guide his approach to leadership include supporting faculty and staff, ensuring student learning and engaging alumni as well as innovating new programs, serving churches and strengthening the university’s financial sustainability.
 
“I believe that the search committee and Dr. Sells have both been extremely focused on God’s leading through this process,” Heflin emphasized. “It has been a journey that God has led and brought all parties together in such a way that has the potential to be life-changing for our beloved Ouachita.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trennis Henderson is vice president for communication at Ouachita Baptist University.)

4/8/2016 11:05:14 AM by Trennis Henderson, Ouachita Baptist University | with 0 comments



African American church embraces Hispanic neighbors

April 8 2016 by Megan Sweas, LifeWay Christian Resources

At the end of a Black History Month-themed service at St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, pastor Anthony Dockery rose to tell about his recent mission trip to El Salvador.
 
The mission team had served in the hometown of Jose Rivas, one of the pastors at St. Stephen. Beyond “good morning” and “God bless you,” Dockery had relied on Rivas for Spanish translation while in the Central American country.

 
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Photo provided by St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church and Megan Sweas
St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church’s annual block party now includes a Hispanic flavor reflecting its unfolding ministry as an African American congregation reaching out to its now-Spanish-speaking community.

The African American congregation enthusiastically applauded the news that 500 people came to the party hosted by St. Stephen in El Salvador.
 
Nationally, denominations and church networks are looking to bridge the gap between Anglo and African American churches. But in La Puente, Calif., about 20 miles east of Los Angeles, St. Stephen finds itself bridging African American and Hispanic communities.

  St. Stephen, a 4,000-member church with a 51-year history, has seen La Puente change dramatically. Years ago, the neighborhood surrounding St. Stephen was primarily African American. Latino residents now account for 85 percent of the city’s population, with African Americans at less than 2 percent, according to the U.S. Census.
 
Longtime church members have moved further into the Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles, Dockery says, yet many remain loyal to St. Stephen and commute back on Sunday mornings.
 
Still, it’s not certain that younger generations will continue the practice, Dockery says, noting, “It’s important for the church to be relevant to its community as well.”
 
Seeking to reach its transitioning neighborhood, St. Stephen has welcomed Rivas as its Spanish-language minister.
 
A native of El Salvador, Rivas came to La Puente to establish a new church, and St. Stephen volunteered its space to his congregation. In December 2013, however, the Spanish-language ministry decided to merge with St. Stephen’s existing community rather than start from scratch.
 

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Photo provided by St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church and Megan Sweas
The sign at St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church reflects the African American congregation’s intent to maintain its reach into the community that now is predominantly Hispanic.

“Their way of doing ministry aligned with what we wanted to do with our Spanish church,” Rivas explains. “St. Stephen has a tremendous program in leadership and Christian education.”
 
About 100 people now attend a Spanish-language service while the predominantly African American English speakers are in Sunday School classes.
 
The Spanish speakers have their own adult Sunday School, using the Spanish edition of the Bible Studies for Life curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources. Children and English-speaking young people are incorporated into the English Sunday School.
 
While services remain separate due to language, other activities, such as the basketball league and church picnics, are for everybody, Rivas says.
 
One of his challenges is making sure the wider community knows that the historically African American church has a Spanish-speaking ministry.
 
St. Stephen reaches out to the local community through a food bank and a block party where people can access donated clothing and basic medical services. Since the Spanish ministry began, more Hispanics have started attending the event which Rivas describes as “a blessing to the church.”
 
St. Stephen’s approach to reaching its community is similar to how Rivas started an outreach in his hometown in El Salvador. He and his sister brought cake on a visit seven years ago and invited neighbors to come to a “birthday party.” Sixty kids came.
 
The next year, they repeated the party and spread the invitation further, with 300-plus kids on hand. At that point, they started to organize Bible study classes and establish a church.
 
Dockery and two African American women from St. Stephen accompanied Rivas’ most recent mission team last year. The congregation at St. Stephen donated 243 backpacks to the town’s children.
 
Whether in El Salvador or their own backyard, missionary work “has united us more in serving God,” Rivas says. “We believe church is to serve the families, obviously starting at home in our Jerusalem, which is here in La Puente.
 
“Whenever you bring races together like this, it’s God’s power,” Dockery says. “Love indeed conquers all.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Megan Sweas is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles. This story first appeared in the Winter issue of Facts & Trends factsandtrends.net, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/8/2016 10:58:11 AM by Megan Sweas, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Businesses fuel economic debate over N.C. bathroom law

April 7 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

PayPal announced April 5 that it is withdrawing plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte, saying North Carolina’s new law “invalidates protections” of LGBT rights. The online payment company’s decision, announced by CEO Dan Schulman in a statement on their website, allegedly costs the city hundreds of jobs.

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State lawmakers passed HB 2 in a special session March 23 to overturn a controversial sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council before it took effect April 1. The SOGI policy would have allowed transgender individuals to access the bathrooms, locker rooms or other public accommodations according to their gender of choice.
 
HB 2 requires state agencies to designate single-sex bathrooms and changing facilities for use according to biological sex as indicated by birth certificate.
 
The bill cites “improved intrastate commerce” and benefits for new and existing businesses as reasons for sustaining a statewide non-discrimination policy. The law’s supporters said Charlotte’s ordinance would also endanger women and children by potentially allowing sexual predators to exploit the policy.
 
PayPal is joined by dozens of businesses that have also expressed opposition to the legislation, stoking the ongoing debate.
 
“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” said Schulman.
 
Conservative advocates deny the allegation that HB 2 enables discrimination, and claim PayPal’s actions are hypocritical, since the company operates in countries with governments that oppress LGBT people.
 
“PayPal currently does business in 19 countries where homosexuality is illegal and six countries where they can be executed,” Tami Fitzgerald, director of the N.C. Values Coalition, said in a press release. “The hypocrisy is just too great!”
 
Mark Harris, congressional candidate and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, said, “PayPal is perfectly happy opening operations in Cuba despite well-documented human rights violations, while they already operate in China and Saudi Arabia. This is the height of hypocrisy and shows more political expediency than common sense.”
 
Fitzgerald added, “PayPal only agreed to come to Charlotte after holding out for millions in corporate incentives ($3.7 million to be exact, plus $480,000 in community college incentives). Under HB 2, PayPal could have chosen to fill all 400 jobs with employees of their choice and provide bathroom and non-discrimination policies designed to their liking. But instead, they forfeited the opportunity to build an operations center in one of the top economically thriving states just for political posturing and ‘political correctness.’”
 
More than 40 large corporations that do business in the state – such as Google, Bank of America and Apple – criticized the new law in online comments. In a tweet March 30, American Airlines called for a repeal of HB 2 “in support of our LGBT employees & customers.”
 
Fitzgerald said, “I would like to be a fly on the wall in American Airlines’ shareholder meetings as they try to justify why they have chosen to side with convicted sex offenders and not the common sense consumers who buy their airline tickets.”
 
Red Hat Inc., a tech firm in downtown Raleigh, said on the company blog, “We cannot see any economic benefit from divisive legislation.”
 
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Basketball Association and cable network ESPN also expressed concern about the effects of the law on their respective sporting events, according to Raleigh’s News & Observer.
 
Prior to the passing of Charlotte’s controversial LGBT ordinance, Forbes magazine listed North Carolina as the second best state for business in 2015, according to their website. 

4/7/2016 6:45:21 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 1 comments



Sale of Florida’s Baptist Building announced

April 7 2016 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

A sacrificial investment made by Florida Baptists decades ago could make a far-reaching global missions impact this year as the State Board of Missions approved a multi-million dollar contract to sell the Baptist Building property in Jacksonville.
 
Fifty-one percent of the proceeds of the Baptist Building property sale will be directed to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Cooperative Program for worldwide mission causes, pledged Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, during the State Board’s April 1 meeting at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg, Fla.
 
“Florida Baptists and their churches sacrificially gave their Cooperative Program gifts and private dollars from their churches to construct the Baptist Building many years ago,” Green said. “We owe it to Florida Baptists to use this as missions money.

 
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Image from Google

“How exciting it will be to give over half of the proceeds to the Cooperative Program and impact global missions with such a gift.”
 
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, expressed gratitude to Green and Florida Baptists following the announcement.
 
“God bless Florida Baptists and Dr. Tommy Green!” Page said. “The gifting of 51 percent of the proceeds of the sale of the property there in Jacksonville will touch lives across our nation and across the world and will make a difference in eternity. We praise the Lord for this great news.”
 
The Baptist Building is located on a full city block just south of downtown in San Marco, one of the city’s most vibrant shopping, entertainment and residential neighborhoods. The area situated along the south bank of the St. Johns River has boasted numerous affluent housing and residential developments in recent years.
 
The property is a “unique site in the urban core, a rare find,” said Brian Moulder of CBRE Group, Inc., the commercial real estate firm marketing the property, as he addressed the State Board during its meeting.
 
Moulder said the purchaser of the property, a commercial real estate development firm, plans to construct a mixed-used residential building with retail space on the lower level and on-site parking. The developer has developed other properties in Jacksonville and has good credibility with working with city officials, Moulder assured the Board. The company is now taking rezoning applications with the city, a process expected to take 175 days.
 
Completion of the sale is anticipated by year’s end. Construction is to start immediately, Moulder said.
 
Green shared with the board that in the past four months as details of the sale were negotiated, the Convention staff had multiple conference calls with the Board’s Convention Property Committee keeping them apprised of the progress of the sale. The committee affirmed the completion of the sales agreement on March 7. The contract was signed March 17.
 
The construction of the Baptist Building was undertaken in 1958. When completed in 1960 the 50,000-square-foot building was composed of five floors and a basement. The original cost of the building, $934,017, included the purchase of land, construction, architects fees and furnishings.
 
Across the next five decades, additional costs were incurred for Florida’s convention to purchase the entire block, build additional buildings and provide capital improvements, totaling expenditures of more than $3 million, said Steve Baumgardner, assistant executive director and director of business services.
 
The 3.5-acre block located on Hendricks Avenue now hosts several buildings, including the original Baptist Building, a building that houses the offices of the Florida Baptist Financial Services and the Florida Baptist Credit Union, a metal storage building and a building at times used for theological education classes and as a recording studio. The Florida Baptist Witness leases space for their staff on the fifth floor of the Baptist Building.
 
The building served as the convention’s hub for missions and ministry for Florida Baptists for more than a half century.
 
But in recent years, the maintenance and upkeep of the aging building began to spark discussion to sell the property. Several attempts to market the building during the past 10 years fell flat as the downturn in the economic climate resulted in a devalued real estate market. As market conditions improved in recent months and the demand for the Baptist Building property increased, consideration to sell the building resurfaced.
 
When Green was elected in May 2015 as executive director, he promised the sale of the Baptist Building would be a priority. The new exec took immediate steps to downsize the convention staff for better efficiency and effectiveness and reassigned staff to live and serve in regions across the state, making the large facility unnecessary to house the streamlined staff.
 
Then during its Nov. 9, 2015, meeting in Panama City, at Green’s request, the board reaffirmed its decision to sell the Baptist Building and requested the executive director to develop a plan for relocation, leading to actions taken during their April 1 meeting.
 
CBRE will assist the convention in finding and leasing new office space for staff in another location in Jacksonville’s Southside, most likely along the I-95 corridor south of Baymeadows Road and north of Old St. Augustine Road, where the Baptist Medical Center South is located.
 
Board member John Green, pastor of Shindler Drive Baptist Church in Jacksonville (Tommy Green’s son) asked Moulder to share relocation plans.
 
Moulder said the $300,000 annual budget for the upkeep of the Baptist Building is projected to be about the cost of an annual lease of 7,500 square feet of office space needed to house the current Jacksonville staff. The new office space will provide much more efficient and useable space, he said.
 
Green told the board that the convention will continue to provide space to the Florida Baptist Witness staff and Florida Baptist Financial Services, if desired. The Florida Baptist Credit Union, which recently has announced a merger with Jacksonville-based First Florida Credit Union will no longer need Convention-provided space.
 
The action to approve the sale of the building by the board was unanimous.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)

4/7/2016 11:20:34 AM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments



Mississippi adopts religious freedom bill

April 7 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed into law a bill safeguarding the religious liberty of individuals and organizations who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings or gender identity transitions.
 
Bryant, a Republican, announced April 5 via Twitter that he signed House Bill 1523 – the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.

 
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Gov. Phil Bryant

“I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning,” Bryant said in a statement. “This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
 
Bryant added, “This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws. It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence [sic] of federal law in such limited circumstances.”
 
Presumably, Bryant was referencing Mississippi’s 2004 state constitutional amendment defining marriage as “only between a man and a woman.”
 
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press in written comments he is “proud of Mississippi and Gov. Phil Bryant for being proactive in the defense of religious liberty.”
 
“This bill doesn’t discriminate against anyone or imperil civil liberties,” said Moore, a Mississippi native. “What it actually does is prohibit the government from taking sides in a culture war and discriminate against those with religious convictions. I’m thankful for Mississippi’s example, and pray that conscience freedom would become an even greater priority for governors and legislatures across the country.”
 
Among its provisions, the bill:

  • Forbids state government from taking “any discriminatory action” against an individual who declines on religious grounds to provide photography, floral arrangements or other wedding services for a same-sex marriage ceremony.

  • Forbids state government discrimination against any person who establishes, on religious grounds, “sex-specific standards or policies” concerning access to restrooms or locker rooms.

  • Permits any person authorized to license or perform marriages to seek recusal from same-sex weddings on religious grounds. At the same time, the bill requires state representatives “to ensure that the performance or solemnization of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.”

  • Forbids state government discrimination against adoption agencies that decline, based on religious convictions, to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

  • Forbids state government discrimination against religious organizations that decline to solemnize same-sex marriages or make employment decisions based on religious beliefs concerning marriage.

The bill specifies that “the sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
 
William Perkins, editor of Mississippi’s Baptist Record newsjournal, said, “The Governor is a strong believer and should be applauded for his courage. The pressure on him has been enormous, and the insults are about to get personal. However, this is what the LGBT political machine has wrought. Religious people have constitutional rights, too. In their zeal to deprive us of those rights, the LGBT political machine has made such legislative actions necessary. They have to own up to that reality.”
 
The bill passed the Mississippi House of Representatives by a 69-44 vote and the Senate by a 32-17 margin.
 
Roger Severino of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, predicted Mississippi’s law will spur other states to adopt similar religious liberty protections.
 
“The Mississippi law prevents discrimination in a manner that is balanced and clear,” Severino said in a news release, “which left little room for ideological opponents to make wild hypothetical accusations against the bill as they had done with Indiana’s religious freedom proposal last year.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/7/2016 11:19:29 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Engaging Muslims, refugees with ‘gospel love’ addressed

April 7 2016 by SBTS communications

In order to fulfill the Great Commission, the church must learn how to teach and make disciples of the 1.6 million Muslims around the world, doing away with cultural fear and embracing them with gospel love, said Southern Baptist leaders during the Great Commission Summit at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).
 
The three-day event, March 29-31, featured leading thinkers in the Southern Baptist Convention in engaging Islam and handling the refugee crisis, along with student-led prayer for Muslims around the world.

 
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SBTS Photo by Emil Handke
Ayman S. Ibrahim (center), Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, encourages students at March 31 GO Talk to offer the "gospel of hope" to Muslims in America. Boyce College professors John Klaassen (left) and David Bosch (right) also shared their outreach experiences with Muslims.

With millions of refugees fleeing their home countries, many of them from Muslim countries like Syria and Sudan, Christians should view the refugee crisis through the lens of God’s posture of mercy and compassion to the foreigner demonstrated in the story of Ruth, said David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, during a March 31 chapel message at Southern Seminary.
 
“Our God seeks, shelters, serves and showers the refugee with his grace,” Platt said, pointing out Boaz’s response to learning that Ruth, a Moabite woman, was working in his field. Boaz’s actions in the Old Testament book did not just demonstrate godly kindness, but also functioned as a critical moment in redemptive history, building a lineage that would “lead to the quintessential kinsman redeemer, Jesus the Christ.”
 
Platt said the world has never before faced such a significant refugee crisis, with 60 million refugees leaving war-torn and impoverished countries. The American church needs to look beyond its own country’s political troubles and see the needs of millions of destitute people worldwide, he said.
 
“I fear that most people in our churches and maybe even in this room are paying very little to no attention to this – or if we are paying attention to it, we are looking at it through political punditry and partisan debates regarding whether or not we should allow relatively few refugees into our land,” Platt said. “It is a sure sign of American self-centeredness that we would take the suffering of millions of people and turn it into an issue that is all about us.
 
“Whatever response is seen [in our churches] often seems to come from a foundation of fear, not of faith, flowing from a view of the world that is far more American than it is biblical,” Platt noted, “and far more concerned with the preservation of our country than it is with the accomplishment of the Great Commission.”
 
Instead, believers should recognize the needs of people all over the world, he said, and commit to helping them with the love and compassion of the Christian gospel.
 
“Our God has not left the outcast and oppressed alone in a world of sin and suffering, he’s come to us and he’s conquered for us,” Platt said. “Brothers and sisters, as followers of Christ, self is no longer our God, therefore safety is no longer our concern. We go and we preach the gospel, knowing that others’ lives are dependent on it.”

 
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SBTS Photo by Emil Handke
IMB President David Platt preaches during the March 29-31 Great Commission Summit at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the need for Christians to show compassion for refugees.

In a series of short talks on March 31 sponsored by the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam, Southern Seminary and Boyce College professors encouraged students to care for Muslim refugees by adopting families and understanding the complexities of Islamic culture.
 
“God wants something to happen in your heart so that it will appear outside,” said Ayman S. Ibrahim, Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Seminary and senior fellow for the Jenkins Center. “Think of Muslims as a very diverse community. Muslims are in very deep need of something you have. I call it ‘the gospel of hope.’ ... They have no hope.”
 
Ibrahim said the “vast majority” of Muslims are nominal and are in serious need of help because they are “victims of a very harsh system of worship.” Describing his experience growing up in Egypt and befriending Muslims in America, Ibrahim said Christians must not think of Islam as “one, simple body” but as diverse expressions of a religion comprising a “way of life.”
 
Muslim refugees simply come to America because “it is much better than their country” and they can find freedom – “no one will be watching over their shoulder,” Ibrahim said.
 
Unfortunately, the fear and suspicion many Americans show toward Muslim refugees results in them feeling isolated. Ibrahim said his wife Emily met a Muslim refugee while shopping, and the woman said it was the first time in the four years she lived in the country that an American had greeted her.
 
Instead of fear, Christians should respond with love, said John Klaassen, associate professor of global studies at Boyce College. Klaassen organizes local missions efforts at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, which includes refugee outreach.
 
“We forget that refugees aren’t people that necessarily want to be here, they have to be here,” Klaassen said, explaining how Muslim migrants often have legitimate fears of American culture. Southern Baptist churches must not only rid themselves of their own fear, Klaassen said, but identify with the plight of refugees.
 
“America was based and founded by a people who sought religious freedom – they were refugees,” Klaassen said. “We are a people of refugees.”
 
Klaassen, who recently wrote Engaging with Muslims, said churches can demonstrate love by partnering with refugee organizations and adopting families when they come to America. He noted how his ministry at Highview welcomes refugee families by providing food and clothing, English as a Second Language classes, job searches, and other assistance to help them adjust to a new culture.
 
“Most importantly, we teach them the gospel,” Klaassen said, noting that they must first obey state contracts that prohibit them from proselytizing. “We teach them the gospel by the things that we say and the things that we do.”
 
In addition to Ibrahim and Klaassen, the series of “GO Talks” also featured David Bosch, associate professor of business administration at Boyce College, who shared about his years of experience doing business as missions in the Middle East.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Andrew J.W. Smith, who writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and S. Craig Sanders, who is manager of news and information at Southern Seminary.)

4/7/2016 11:18:41 AM by SBTS communications | with 0 comments



‘The Banquet’ highlights special needs ministry

April 7 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

When Sherry Mann’s daughter was born with a rare genetic condition three years ago, Mann’s eyes were opened to a world she never knew existed.
 
While seeking to provide the best possible physical, emotional and medical care for her daughter, Mann says she and her husband Brian began to see the need for churches to provide spiritual care for individuals who have special needs.
 
“We began to see a whole new community,” Mann said. “It’s just allowed me to see this (special needs) community, their need for the gospel and how many churches need to be ready to care for them.”

 
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Carlton McDaniel

Mann was one of approximately 80 people who attended one of two recent daylong conferences for church leaders on ministering to children with special physical mental or social needs and their families.
 
The events were held on Saturday, March 5 simultaneously at Quest Fellowship Church in Garner and Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville.
 
Titled “The Banquet” based upon Jesus’ parable of the great banquet that’s recorded in Luke 14, the conferences featured keynote presentations along with a series of breakout sessions. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) sponsored the events in both locations.
 
“We believe special needs ministry is important in the lives of families and in the lives of churches,” said Donnie Wiltshire, the convention’s consultant for special ministries. “Christ’s mandate to us is that we make disciples, and that means to make disciples of everybody.”
 
Cheryl Markland, BSC consultant for childhood evangelism and discipleship added: “Jesus calls us to minister to all His children. We should not let our fear or lack of understanding be a barrier to fulfilling this mandate.”
 
Carlton McDaniel, founder and executive director of Able to Serve, delivered the keynote address to attendees at The Banquet in Garner. Based in the Triangle, Able to Serve provides educational, social and community service opportunities for individuals with special needs.
 
Prior to founding Able to Serve, McDaniel worked with special needs ministries in churches for more than 20 years. During his keynote address, McDaniel used the event’s theme passage of Luke 14 to share why the church should be involved in ministering to those with special needs.
 
In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus tells the parable of the master of a house who had planned a large banquet for many invited guests.
 
Yet when the banquet was ready, the guests made excuses for not attending. The master then sent his servants out to invite “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (v. 21).
 
“The point was that all are welcome,” McDaniel said. “This is Jesus’ banquet table. It’s not yours, and it’s not mine.”
 
Ministering to individuals with special needs is about showing the love of God to others, McDaniel said.
 
“If we believe in the Creator, then we believe in the creation,” McDaniel said. “We’re demeaning the Creator when we ignore or pretend that something is wrong with His creation.”
 
McDaniel believes everyone has a disability that the Bible calls sin, and all are in need of God’s love and sacrifice that was provided by Jesus on the cross.
 
“The banquet is knowing that God loves you,” McDaniel said. “There is no better food for my soul than knowing that God loves me…. His banquet is open to all, and His banquet is the same for all.”

4/7/2016 11:17:42 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



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