December 16 2014 by
Alex Sibley, SWBTS/Baptist Press
Thomas W. (“T.W.”) Hunt, widely recognized in Christian circles as an authority on prayer, died Dec. 11 at the age of 85.
Hunt was the author of such books as The Mind of Christ and Disciple’s Prayer Life and a former professor of music and missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Hunt’s granddaughter, Katherine Fruge, a doctor of philosophy student at Southwestern, characterized his passing as “successfully finishing his race,” noting that he died peacefully with family by his side “cheering him on to victory.”
“T.W. Hunt met Jesus yesterday,” Southwestern President Paige Patterson said in a Dec. 12 statement. “It was a meeting of a faithful servant and his Lord, to be sure. But in a sense, it was just a reunion of old friends, because few men ever walked with God like Enoch and T.W. Hunt.
“As a faculty member, as a pastor and as a friend, Dr. Hunt was the champion of prayer and devotional walk with the Master. His family, his friends, his church and his seminary will miss him profoundly.
Now, my friend, enjoy all that God has now richly provided for you,” Patterson said.
Thomas W. Hunt
Born in 1929, Hunt grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ at age 10, although it would be many years before he fully surrendered to God’s plan for his life. Until then, Hunt earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in musicology and piano and taught music classes at the University of North Texas and, later, at Oklahoma College for Women.
The trajectory of Hunt’s life changed, however, when he received a special gift in 1959 – a copy of the Martin Luther translation of the Bible – from a student who knew that he spoke German, which Hunt learned while serving overseas in the Army and as a missionary.
The day he received the Bible was one of the most memorable of his life. “It just seemed to be kind of … me,” he recalled in a Baptist Press article many years later. “Luther had linguistic skill and spiritual insight. [I made] the decision to commit all my life to Christ in 1959, reading that German Bible.”
Four years later, Hunt followed God’s call to teach in Southwestern’s school of church music. Within a few years, he had transformed the way music was used for missions. Specifically, he developed the Music in Missions class that is still in the school’s catalogue today.
The new course, for which Hunt wrote the textbook, offered students techniques for using music to communicate the message of the Gospel by focusing on the indigenous music of the particular mission field. This concept would later prove to have played an integral role in revolutionizing music evangelism.
In 1987, LifeWay Christian Resources (then-Baptist Sunday School Board), which had previously published Hunt’s Disciple’s Prayer Life and, soon after, The Doctrine of Prayer, asked Hunt to move to Nashville to serve as the board’s first prayer consultant. Although the decision was difficult due to Hunt’s fondness for teaching, after much prayer and Bible study, it became clear he had finished what God wanted him to do at Southwestern and it was time to move on. So, confident in God’s will, Hunt accepted the position.
From that position, Hunt became recognized as an earnest prayer warrior and often was asked to speak on prayer at conferences and state conventions, sparking several thousand churches to begin or undergird their prayer ministries. He retired from LifeWay in 1994.
After leaving LifeWay, Hunt remained an active author and speaker over the next two decades. In 1994, LifeWay published what would be Hunt’s most popular work, The Mind of Christ, a Bible study co-authored with Claude V. King on Philippians 2:5-11.
Throughout more than five decades of ministry, Hunt always asked people not to focus on him. Instead, as he once said to Baptist Press, “I’d rather they know about God.”
Mark Estep, pastor of Spring Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, where Hunt was a longtime member, said Hunt was the most godly person he ever met.
“He truly walked with the Lord and demonstrated that walk each and every day,” Estep said. “He was my friend, mentor and encourager. There is no one on this earth for whom I or my church has more respect than T.W. Hunt. T.W. taught in our church many times, usually on the subject of prayer or the work of the Holy Spirit. Our people always were blessed by his deep insight and his ability to communicate what God had taught him. He will be missed more than words can say.
“I have no doubt that as he stepped through the gates of heaven, he humbly bowed before our Lord and heard the words, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant,’” Estep said.
Hunt was preceded in death by his wife Laverne in 2009. Funeral arrangements were not available at press time.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
12/16/2014 12:38:23 PM
December 16 2014 by
Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press
Alex Sibley, SWBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
For Mitch Englehart,* it’s a beautiful sight that’s taking place in some very dirty water. The South Carolina native watches from the bank of a stagnant canal as six new believers are baptized outside a small village in the South Asian countryside. Dhanwan is one of them.
“I want to follow Jesus!” the young man says, explaining that he became a Christian following a miraculous healing through the prayers of a local pastor. That pastor, Lalbahadur, is a fifth-generation Christian whose faith can be traced back to Englehart’s church-planting network. It is mid-January, and Dhanwan shivers as he steps into the canal. Lalbahadur starts the baptism chain, first dunking Dhanwan, as each newly baptized believer baptizes the next. This is discipleship in action, Englehart says, and it’s what’s brought him to South Asia.
He and his wife, Nellie,* from Texas, have spent the past nine years training church leaders like Lalbahadur. For Englehart, 47, that means travel – and lots of it. On average, he spends 10 to 12 nights a month away from Nellie and their two children, Rachel* and Peyton,* as he disciples national believers. But he says the sacrifice is worthwhile; it’s part of the commitment the Texas couple made when God called them as full-time Christian workers.
IMB photo by Paul W. Lee
Mitch Englehart,* left, and Manoj, right, one of Englehart’s main church-planting partners, take time to pray over believers following a church service in a rural South Asian village. Many ask for prayer for healing; others share testimonies of coming to faith in Christ after being healed, some through traditional medicine and some through miraculous circumstances.
“When you look back at Paul and Jesus, you can almost spell ‘disciple’ T-I-M-E,” Englehart says. “If we want to see God move in an area, then we need to invest between 60 and 90 days a year into these guys.”
“These guys” are Englehart’s two main church-planting partners, Rakesh and Manoj. Between them, they’ve seen more than 1,200 new churches and 3,000-plus baptisms in the past five years. Trouble is, they work more than 500 miles apart.
Rakesh is six hours away by train; Manoj is much farther (14 hours by train), which is why Englehart opts to fly. The $140 ticket shaves travel time down to an hour. Both the partners’ ministries center around rural villages, which means that after Englehart arrives in their respective cities, there’s often hours of driving still ahead to get where they’re going.
“One hundred dollars gets us a taxi or jeep to travel around for three days so we can go from village to village,” Englehart says. The same amount buys about 35 Bibles, “so we can put the Word in people’s hands.”
All of these expenses – from trains to taxis to Bibles – represent just a few of the Engleharts’ needs provided for by Southern Baptists’ giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
“We can do so much more together than we can by ourselves, and that’s the genius of Lottie Moon,” Englehart says, speaking of the offering that supports him, his family and their ministry, as well as that of more than 4,800 other Southern Baptist workers overseas. “When we go home [to America], they call us heroes. But all of us are heroes because we couldn’t do it without those folks who are praying and giving. They’re our heroes.”
Englehart believes it’s all part of one sacred effort that God is using to fulfill the Great Commission. The total number of believers in the Engleharts’ church-planting network alone tops 10,000, and there are dozens more Christian workers scattered throughout the region. Better still, Englehart says much of the growth is happening among unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs) who are hearing the gospel for the first time. But there’s still plenty of work to be done.
Englehart’s team is busy developing a new wave of church planters focused on the area’s least-reached districts – many less than 0.1 percent Christian. Progress can sometimes seem painfully slow, but Englehart knows that’s a small price to pay compared with that of the South Asian believers he’s training.
He’s awed by the sacrifices many are willing to make – like walking nine miles in sweltering heat to attend a training event. “Who wouldn’t want to be around a leader like that? It’s from those guys I’ve learned how to give my life for the gospel,” Englehart says. “I’ve seen these guys suffer and the joy they have in doing it.”
But it’s not their dedication – or even their success – that keeps him going. It’s about calling – about finding his place in God’s story.
Englehart remembers when God first began pulling him toward full-time Christian work. A successful businessman chasing the American dream, he was first introduced to South Asians in Texas. Almost immediately, Englehart knew something was different. He was able to connect with them in a way he couldn’t with his American friends – especially when it came to sharing the gospel.
With Americans, “it was like I was pushing a boulder up a hill,” Englehart explains. “But when I sat with South Asian friends …, it was like chasing that boulder down a hill – it was that easy.”
And today, after helping train dozens of church planters, there’s little doubt Englehart is exactly where God wants him to be. “I wish I could stretch my day into 36 hours, I wish I could have 45 days in a month — that’s how much I love what I do,” he says.
“God is using these guys in mighty ways,” Englehart adds with a grin. “There’s already a fire burning. My role is to pour a little gasoline on that fire.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a senior writer with the International Mission Board.)
Learn more about South Asian people groups and how to pray for and reach them with the gospel at southasianpeoples.imb.org.
12/16/2014 12:29:53 PM
December 16 2014 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The United States has a new State Department advocate for religious liberty overseas.
The U.S. Senate confirmed David Saperstein as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in a 62-35 roll-call vote Dec. 12. Saperstein, a long-time proponent of global religious liberty, has been director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for more than three decades.
Saperstein’s confirmation ended a 14-month long vacancy during which religious freedom advocates urged first President Obama, then the Senate, to fill the post at a time when people of faith and America’s reputation as a defender of religious liberty were suffering increasingly around the world.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s lead religious freedom advocate thanked the Senate for its action.
“In this hour, we need all the diplomatic and intellectual energy we can muster on these issues of human rights and global security,” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said. He said Saperstein will have his “full cooperation and support in the cause of protecting religious freedom around the world.”
Obama’s selection of Saperstein evoked misgivings from the ERLC, as well as other pro-life and religious freedom organizations, because of the nominee’s liberal stances on domestic issues such as abortion and gay rights.
Saperstein’s assurances since his nomination have helped satisfy concerns, said a leading advocate for overseas religious liberty.
Saperstein won conservatives’ support “by assuring them that he will advocate for religious freedom for all religious groups, including those that might oppose him on issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage (no easy undertaking in an administration that has mounted assaults on domestic religious groups over those very issues),” wrote Thomas Farr in a mid-November blog post. Farr is director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
He has gained respect as well “by convincing [conservatives] he will work very hard to elevate the status of his office, policy, and position within the State Department,” wrote Farr, a former U.S. diplomat. “He clearly wants to make a difference in the growing crisis of religious freedom, especially in the Middle East.
“In short, many conservatives trust Saperstein even though they disagree with him,” Farr said. “This is rare in Washington, D.C.”
In a September hearing, Saperstein committed to a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to use his post “fervently (and fiercely) to advocate for the rights of individuals to choose, change, and practice their faith safely, to end blasphemy and apostasy laws, and without government interference or the threat of violence or marginalization, to ensure that people are free and safe to assemble, worship, teach, learn, and share their faith with others.”
According to his written testimony, he also promised to attempt to “engage every segment” of the State Department and the rest of the federal government “to integrate religious freedom into our nation’s statecraft: counter-terrorism, conflict stability efforts, economic development, human rights.” Such foreign policy goals, he said, “need the stability, the security, the contributions of members of religious majorities and religious minorities, in every country, to further our nation’s values, interests and agenda.”
More than one-third of the Senate still voted against Saperstein’s confirmation, with one Democrat – Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – joining 34 Republicans in opposition. Among Republicans who voted in favor of his confirmation were conservative Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
The ERLC’s Moore was among religious freedom proponents who urged the president during the last year to fill the position after Suzan Johnson Cook resigned in October 2013. The post has been vacant for more than three of the six years Obama has been in the White House. The president announced in late July his intention to nominate Saperstein, but it took more than four months for the Senate to hold a confirmation vote.
In September, Moore urged Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule a vote on Saperstein before senators entered what was basically a recess to campaign for the November election. At the time, Moore told Reid in a letter, “The whole world is on fire on the issues of religious liberty and religious conflict.” A confirmation vote on Saperstein “should be more important than politics,” he said.
The delay for a confirmation vote on Saperstein came as Christians and other religious minorities continued to undergo persecution, perhaps most notably in Iraq and Nigeria. The terrorist movement known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has committed atrocities against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities, especially in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, Boko Haram, also a militant Islamic group, has continued its reign of terror in Nigeria. In the last five years, Boko Haram has killed about 15,000 Christians and destroyed or bombed more than 200 churches, a government official has reported.
Research has shown 5.3 billion people, or 76 percent of the world’s population, live in countries with high restrictions on religious freedom from the government or groups in society.
With his confirmation, Saperstein becomes the fourth ambassador-at-large – and the first who is not a Christian – since the post was created in 1998 by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
Saperstein, an original member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), strongly advocated for IRFA’s passage and served as the first chairman of USCIRF, the bipartisan advisory panel established by the law. He was on the commission from 1999 to 2001.
Saperstein’s differences with the ERLC and other pro-life or religious freedom organizations include his criticism of the Supreme Court’s June opinion in the Hobby Lobby case that supported the religious freedom of for-profit employers regarding the abortion/contraception mandate in the 2010 health-car law. He also stood at Obama’s side as the president signed an executive order in July to extend workplace protections among federal contractors to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender status. Other religious liberty advocates said the religious exemption in the order would prove inadequate.
Among the concerns religious freedom proponents continue to have about the post Saperstein now fills is the State Department’s refusal to elevate it so the ambassador-at-large reports directly to the secretary of State – something other ambassadors at large are authorized to do.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
12/16/2014 12:23:57 PM
December 15 2014 by
K. Allan Blume, BR Editor
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Timmy D. Blair Sr. is amazed at the course his life has taken – from a broken home, to pastoring the same church for 26 years and now to serving as the president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “To look at my life, from where I’ve come to where I am, it’s just a work of God’s grace,” he said. “I am so thankful and humbled to serve Him and to be saved. Anything beyond that – whether it’s pastoring or serving the convention – it’s just icing on the cake.”
He was elected to the position without opposition at the annual meeting in Greensboro, Nov. 11.
Born in High Point, Blair was five years old when his father left the family. His mother remarried, and they moved to Conway, S.C.
Theirs was not a church-going family. But a high school friend, Kenn Hucks, tried to witness to Blair. Hucks is now pastor of Sardis Baptist Church in Indian Trail. “I am so thankful that God put him in my path,” Blair said.
Hucks was scheduled to sing with his youth choir in a revival service. He invited the 16-year-old Blair to attend. “I agreed to go, but I slipped into the back pew of that revival service,” he said. “I planned to slip out and go about my life. But that night God spoke to my heart; the Holy Spirit convicted me. I walked the aisle and gave my life to Jesus Christ.”
Hucks’ parents gave Blair a Bible, marked with the date of his conversion, and encouraged him to read it. “That was the second Bible I ever had. The first one was a Gideon Bible I received in elementary school,” he said.
BR photo by K. Allan Blume
Timmy Blair, pastor of Piney Grove Chapel in Angier and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is thankful for God’s work in his life.
At age 17 he answered the call to preach and began filling in as a lay-preacher wherever he was needed. He attended Fruitland Baptist Bible College “just to take Kenneth Ridings’ class on homiletics.” Blair transferred his credits to Luther Rice Seminary where he completed the bachelor and masters programs. In 1984 Bolton Baptist Church in Bolton, N.C., called him as their pastor.
“When the Lord called me to preach I thought that meant I would preach in my county in S.C. I never dreamed that I would move to another community let alone another state,” Blair said. “It was a good experience for a young preacher who was 24 years old. They were good to our family,” said Blair.
A retired pastor that he knew from the Whiteville area, John Stevenson, became the interim pastor of Piney Grove Chapel in Angier, N.C. “One day, out of the blue, John called me up and said, ‘Tim, I’m at a church in Angier. Knowing the church and knowing you, I just feel like you might be a good fit.’”
Again, Blair thought any move he made would take him south, not further north. But in 1987 he became the pastor of Piney Grove Chapel.
In five years of ministry the church grew and built additional facilities. “But the church was not growing as I thought it should,” Blair said.
They were financially strong and had good facilities. “But I thought, maybe if I leave, somebody new could come, and maybe the church would take off.” A church near his home town called him. He moved his family to Aynor, S.C., to become the pastor of Salem Baptist Church.
“About three months of being there I realized that I had probably made a mistake. I was out of the Lord’s will,” Blair said. At the same time the new pastor of Piney Grove did not work out either. “The chairman of the pastor search committee called me and said, ‘I’m sitting here with all of our committee and we’ve got a stack of resumes, but they don’t want to look at them. They said they want their pastor back. Would you remotely consider coming back?’”
Blair agreed to preach a weekend revival to “see how things go.” The church and the community turned out in strong numbers. “We had an awesome revival, and it was confirmation that the Lord was leading me and leading them to call me back as their pastor. So I came back,” he said.
“It has been an amazing journey for us. The Lord has blessed us beyond anything I could ever have thought or imagined.” The church has grown from a membership of 200 to more than 960. Renovations have doubled the capacity of the sanctuary, other facilities have been added and additional land has been purchased.
“The church has been good to my family,” Blair added. “My boys grew up here. ... and got married here. My oldest son serves as the vice chairman of our deacons.
“That’s been an honor. To my children, it has put a positive outlook on what church is about, for which I will always be very grateful.”
When asked to identify the most important elements of his life and ministry, Blair did not hesitate. “I think the greatest accomplishments of my life was seeing my two boys come to Christ. I felt that if I failed as their dad and their pastor, though I have touched the masses, if I failed them, I would feel like I have not done the most important thing in ministry – to model the Christian life before them.
“To see them receive Christ and become Christian men who know the Lord, love the Lord and love the church has been the greatest joy of my life. One day I will step away from all of this and that’s what will count – your family.”
Blair said he and his wife, Wendy, were “childhood sweethearts” who wrote notes to each other in the fourth grade. They are now the proud grandparents of a nine-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy.
Their youngest son, Brandon, is the student pastor at Langston Baptist Church in Conway, S.C., serving with former N.C. pastor, Hampton Drum.
Having grown up in a broken home where his father was abusive and an alcoholic, he sees the importance of a spiritually healthy home.
“It was a very hard life,” he said. “I never knew where my daddy was. He took my mother’s wedding ring and hocked it to buy cheap wine. He never contacted us, and never tried to have any relationship with us in any way.”
When Blair was in his 20s he joined his brother and sister to hire a private detective to locate their father. They found him in a prison in N.C. “We went to the prison and met him, just to see if we could have a relationship with him, but there was no interest in that, which was another blow for a young man. I just can’t imagine how someone would not want to have a relationship with their children.” Their father died in prison.
“Statistically I would have been the same as my dad – a product of the family I came from. But God, in His power, can break the cycle. That’s why I say my life is a work of grace. That’s why it is so humbling to know that while my dad ended his life in prison, I get to be elected as president of our convention – it’s just a work of grace. That’s all I can say. It’s a work of grace!”
Blair’s background not only intensifies his desire to be a good husband and father, but also fosters strong admiration for the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).
“Because of the life I lived, I can identify with so many of those children,” he said. “My heart goes out to them, and I’m just thankful for the work our convention is doing through the BCH: touching those young lives, giving them a place of safety, helping them to become productive adults and leading many of them to the Lord.”
His most fulfilling pastoral work is to preach the gospel and love people. “What you do Monday through Saturday to touch the people – being there with the people, whether they are hurting or rejoicing – I’ve always felt like that gave me the platform for what I do on Sunday. I love to be with my people.”
Blair has tried to stay involved with the Southern Baptist Convention and the BSC. As a young pastor he often found convention life challenging. “In those earlier days I remember how hard it was going [to the annual meeting], and I was so discouraged. In fact there was one time in Fayetteville when I said, ‘I’ll never go back again.’ I was just so discouraged. But some time during the year we would get a good candidate and everybody would go again.” His perseverance paid off.
“Finally the convention began to turn and I was able to get involved serving on some committees,” Blair said. He has since served on the BSC’s Committee on Committees (2003-2004), the Program, Place and Preacher Committee (2006-2009, chairman in 2009) and the Board of Directors (2011). He served two terms as second vice president of the BSC (2012-2013) and one year as first vice president (2014).
As president of the BSC Blair wants to “... continue the right course as a convention, to make sure that we have [leaders] that understand some of the battles that were fought in the early days, and the sacrifices and commitments that were made in those days,” he said. He described Milton Hollifield’s vision and leadership as “awesome.” Hollifield is the BSC’s executive director-treasurer.
“I am very grateful for the leadership, the staff and all of the employees of the BSC,” Blair added. “Until you serve in some capacity in the work of the convention, you really have no idea of the level of commitment and the level of passion in these people who serve us.”
His vision is to see N.C. Baptist churches of every size work together to reach the state and take the gospel to the whole world. “I think the greatest vehicle for that is the Cooperative Program (CP),” he said. “To me the CP was ‘networking’ before networking was cool. CP is basically churches choosing to network together and partner together to carry out a particular mission to the community, the country and the world, seeing lives changed by the power of God.
“I think we need to recapture the vision our leaders had years ago with the CP. No one church and no small group of churches could ever do what is being done through CP now. It would be hard for small churches to have the resources to underwrite families and send them out on the [international] mission field.”
He said CP is not a program, but a vision that all Baptist churches can buy into. Piney Grove Chapel has a record of leadership in baptisms, leads mission trips in North America and has continuing ministry in Swaziland, South Africa. The church has accepted the 1% CP Challenge, increasing their gifts to six percent annually.
“It’s time to put the pedal to the metal and go all out to reach the world for Christ. It’s bigger than any of us could do on our own.”
12/15/2014 1:44:16 PM
December 15 2014 by
Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor
K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments
Several Baptist churches and ministries across the state are discipling college students, but they employ varying models ultimately committed to fulfilling the Great Commission.
“You can equip and mobilize and encourage [students] to do ministry without a recognized student organization. But, sometimes people would like to have a more formal recognition like a group. … The main thing, though, is knowing your campus,” said Tom Knight, collegiate consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
Some models – such as the campus-based model – are built on the foundation of a registered student organization (RSO) on or near a college or university campus. This particular ministry serves as a missional hub of students, as a bridge between the campus and local churches. One such example connected to the BSC is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of the High Country (BCMHC). The BCMHC is a member of the Appalachian Spiritual Life Association, which means it is an RSO group of Appalachian State University (ASU).
Executive director and lead missionary of BCMHC, Mike “Puck” Puckett, said their purpose is to be a missionary hub on campus for and with the local churches. Historically, the BCM has served as the campus ministry front for the convention.
Jeremy Dager, age-based ministries pastor at Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, baptizes a college student.
“Our structure is built on weekly worship. We have a small group system in place … for students to understand that they aren’t just here for themselves or for a degree, but that God has intentionally placed them here,” he said.
BCMHC’s ministry is dependent upon students who are missionaries on their local campus. Puckett emphasized, “We on staff at BCM in the High Country cannot exist if we’re the ones making everything happen. We’re more of the equippers and the senders and support. … Once it comes down to it, it’s going to take students reaching students to have an impact on the campus with the gospel.”
Numerous events are planned throughout the year to connect with students. Each year, ASU hosts a spiritual opportunities fair that gives both the BCMHC and local churches the chance to meet some of ASU’s students and to connect them with area churches.
Puckett added, “The campus will allow registered student organizations to send mailers that go free to all of the [campus] post office boxes as long as the Center for Student Involvement approves it. We’ll put our list of events on a well-designed card, and I think we sent out about 10,000 of those this year. … All of these students will get this list of events along with our contact info.”
But ultimately, Puckett said, “it’s all about our students involved in reaching other students, because we can have the slickest promo, the best facilities, the biggest crowd and things like that, but that’s only going to win a few students.”
Community colleges are different. Jonathan Yarboro, team leader and consultant for BSC’s collegiate partnerships, noted that these are unique because they are structured differently than four-year residential universities. “When you look at a community college, it is different because the students who are coming for a nursing program are on the same schedule. They take the same classes at exactly the same time, and they even have their lunch breaks at the same time. When the class ends, they do one of two things: they go home, or they go to work,” he said.
Kelton Hinton, director of missions of the Johnston Baptist Association, said community college students do not have a lot of free time because they juggle several responsibilities such as home life and a possible full-time job while going to school. He said, “They have zero free time, so we have to catch them while they are on campus and between classes.”
Also, serving as a campus ministry coordinator at Johnston Community College in Smithfield, Hinton said various Bible studies and social events are started in order to meet and engage community college students. Because the structure isn’t conducive to social events outside of the classroom setting, ministries must create a social culture on these campuses. “Many [community] college students come into a particular area of study, and they come on campus … and interact only with their fellow cohorts in their program and then they leave,” he said.
Hinton and others have developed a series of Bible studies specific to different groupings based on a student’s area of study. “For example, we have a separate Bible study that meets weekly with basic law-enforcement training, … another study group that works with the truck driver trainees, and we have hopes to expand to the nursing program.
“This is what I call the silo mentality,” said Hinton.
He appoints volunteers to lead these Bible studies on a weekly basis, and his goal “is to have Bible student leaders who understand that world to advise [students] as well as use illustrations and applications of the biblical text to speak into their career choices.”
Associate pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Asheville, Jason Speier utilizes a missional community model for engaging students; in fact, the church uses Training for Trainers (T4T) to disciple individuals and groups. T4T was developed by an Asian-American missionary named Ying Kai while serving in Asia; Kai saw more than 80,000 churches started and two million baptisms within 10 years of using the T4T model.
Speier said they’re implementing T4T in three phases: phase one includes Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville; phase two targets Mars Hill University in Mars Hill; and phrase three is at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
He said, “We’ve started with the first two phases by identifying student-believers from our community and churches, and having them engage in the [T4T] training, while also teaching them how to disciple one-on-one with fellow students.”
With each campus having a unique identity, Speier and others are trying to communicate the gospel through effective models in the numerous settings of the Buncombe Baptist Association – and abroad. In fact, Speier said he doesn’t believe ministries should recreate Woodland Hills’ chosen model into their own contexts.
“What we’re trying to do is identify anyone who is ready and willing to disciple students in a one-on-one or one-on-group basis,” he said. “The hope of this is that we can contextualize the gospel at the most basic level of person-to-person. … Here, I can find out exactly where you’re at and I can help you to see what God has done through you. Then, I can disciple you in the most efficient and best way possible. Great, great things happen in one-on-one [discipleship].”
Approximately two years ago, The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham planted Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro with the intentions of reaching the Triad. Within that time, the college ministry grew from slightly more than five students to 250-275 students.
Pastor of age-based ministry at Mercy Hill, Jeremy Dager noted the six different schools the college ministry represents: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, High Point University, Elon University, Winston-Salem State University, Greensboro College and North Carolina A&T State University.
Dager said the church has seen tremendous growth due to their relationships with on-campus ministries and personal relationships with students. “Through these relationships, we were able to help students get discipled and get them excited about the local church,” he said. “From there, we’ve seen that replicate as students see us pouring into them.”
Mercy Hill encourages their students to be committed to both weekly small groups and worship. “And also,” added Dager, “we push them to live missionally on campus. All of that is done through relationships. … What’s neat about it is that we’ve seen students not only come, but also grow. They’re now thinking about how to leverage their life after graduation to do something, whether it be internationally or working with a domestic church plant. They’re making big decisions for the Kingdom of Christ.”
12/15/2014 1:30:31 PM
December 15 2014 by
Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments
For the last chapel of the fall semester, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
(SEBTS) hosted a time of prayer and Bible reading for racial understanding and reconciliation.
Friends of Southeastern including students, faculty, staff and local members of the community participated in this special chapel service Dec. 4 in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown
in Ferguson, Mo.,
and the choking death of Eric Garner
in New York.
Reese Wilson, left, a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, leads a time of prayer during the Dec. 4 chapel service at the seminary. Daniel Akin, SEBTS president, center, bows with Kristal Wilson, who works in the financial aid office and is a former police officer.
, president of SEBTS, forwent his traditional sermon because he felt it was important to lead the seminary in thinking through present issues facing Americans today.
He quoted 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. “Ours is a broken world and a fractured world. It is a world in desperate need of reconciliation.”
“The most important reconciliation is that which we have with God,” he said. “Apart from reconciliation with God, we will never see reconciliation within ourselves and among ourselves.”
Akin reflected on recent events as “a great tragedy in a fallen, broken world.”
“I am heartbroken at the loss of life, and tragedy of sin and all that it inflicts on everyone,” he said. “Everyone is impacted by these events. It is becoming more evident in these recent days that our nation still has a long way to go when it comes to racial understanding and racial reconciliation and ethic affirmation of one another.”
Akin is convinced that reconciliation will not happen in America until it happens in the church. “It is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Body of Christ, that needs to step up at this particular time and lead the way and show the way forward through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
, special advisor to the President for Kingdom Diversity and professor of Theology at Southeastern, helped organize the event.
Several seminary and community leaders came together to lead the time of prayer, including: Edgar Aponte, director of Hispanic Leadership Development; Brent Aucoin, associate professor of history and associate dean of The College at Southeastern; Maliek Blade, a student at The College at Southeastern; and Al Fullwood, adjunctive professor of preaching and speech.
Mike Lawson, director of security at SEBTS; Jesse Parker, Th.M. student at Southeastern; James White, pastor at Christ Our King Community Church in Raleigh and executive vice president of organizational relations for the Triangle YMCA; and Reese and Kristal Wilson also participated. Reese is a student at Southeastern, and Kristal works in the financial aid office and is a former police officer.
The annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was collected for International Mission Board missionaries during the chapel service. Since 1888 when the offering began, over $3.5 billion has been raised to fund missionaries.
12/15/2014 1:05:26 PM
December 15 2014 by
Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor
SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments
The Appalachian Coalfields Ministry (ACM), sponsored by Baptists on Mission (formerly N.C. Baptist Men), helps meet the physical and spiritual needs of people living in the Appalachia. Working with many ministry centers and churches in five Appalachian states, they help mobilize volunteers and resources to meet such needs.
“When all is said and done we will have just over 5,000 backpacks collected and delivered,” said Mark Abernathy, consultant for Baptists on Mission (BOM). “This is a good bit fewer than what we were aiming for, but … [t]he 5,000 backpacks represent a significant contribution by N.C. churches from all across the state and we are grateful for each one.”
The items collected for each backpack include: school supplies such as crayons, notebook paper, pencils, pens, composition books, folders, erasers and rulers; new clothing such as winter hats, gloves, socks and underwear; small canned food such as ravioli, tuna, beef stew, vegetables and fruit; a least one new, age appropriate non-breakable toy; hygiene items; a children’s Bible; fresh, wrapped candy; and a copy of The Christmas Story and a “Mailbox Bible Club” enrollment.
BOM photo by Mark Abernathy
Dewey and Kathie Aiken serve with the Appalachian Regional Ministry, one of the poorest regions in America, through the North American Mission Board. Baptists on Mission, also known as North Carolina Baptist Men, has been part of collecting about 5,000 backpacks to distribute to children.
Twenty-two collection sites were set up across the state and two processing sites at Red Springs and Shelby Mission Camps.
Appalachia is one of the poorest areas in America, and Christ wants to meet physical needs, said Abernathy. But this “also opens the door for the gospel message to be shared.
“These backpacks are the only present some children in these areas will receive this Christmas. We want each child to know that people care, but more than that, to know that God cares,” he said.
Dewey and Kathie Aiken serve as North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries working with the Appalachian Regional Ministry, a ministry of NAMB. For the past five years, they have been site coordinators for the ACM.
Kathie Aiken said, “Through both of these, we help to mobilize volunteers and resources to assist scores of ministries throughout areas of poverty in Appalachia. These ministries submitted applications for assistance with filled Christmas backpacks for the children in their communities.
“They informed us how the gospel would be shared using these backpacks. We processed these applications and matched their needs with churches desiring to help them with Christmas events.”
This year, 26 N.C. churches plan to provide food, clothing, games and filled backpacks to ministries in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Other ACM projects include week-long sports events, children’s ministry, evangelism, music and construction sites.
Many of these children’s families have lost jobs in the coal mining business, have difficulty providing the basics of life and are plagued with generational poverty. N.C. Baptists have a history of concern for Appalachian people, and BOM has sponsored the ACM since 2010. The greatest gift given in every backpack is the Bible and the true Christmas story, Abernathy emphasized.
“N.C. Baptists can know that lives are being changed because of the liberating truth that is being shared through Appalachian Christmas Outreach.
“Our hope is that this message of hope and love will change not only that child’s life, but impact the whole family,” he said.
When the backpacks are received by thousands of children living in these dire situations, it will not only be the families that are affected, the givers will be also.
Kathie Aiken said, “We have heard many churches report that their whole congregation was involved in this ministry: young, old, [and] those who cannot travel on a mission trip.
“Some have never been involved in missions before this and are eagerly awaiting next year’s outreach. Being involved in a ministry such as this is doing what Christ told us to do: ‘Remember the poor.’
“We are assured He is pleased with the outpouring of love and obedience that N.C. Baptists have shown this year by working with Appalachian Christmas Outreach.”
Abernathy added, “Many churches expressed to us that they were helping with other collections this year, but would be interested in participating next year. We believe that we can build on the good start of this first effort and increase the number of backpacks we are able to collect and send next December.”
To find out more information or to get involved, visit Baptists on Mission’s website, baptistsonmission.org/Projects, scroll to the United States tab and click “Appalachian Coalfields.”
12/15/2014 12:53:24 PM
December 12 2014 by
Kate Weatherly, Baptist Press
Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments
Vibrant colors of flags representing several nations paraded down the chapel aisle before history professor Philip Jenkins from Baylor University described the consequences of the movement of Christianity toward the Global South from its predominant foundation in North America and Europe since 1900.
“Christianity is a religion that was born in Africa and Asia and, in our lifetimes, has decided to go home,” Jenkins said at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s 10th annual Intersect conference.
This is not the end of Christianity in the West, but a shift from the prominent influence of Western culture, Jenkins said, projecting that Christianity’s strength by 2050 would not just be in the U.S. but in such Southern Hemisphere regions as Mexico, Brazil, Uganda, Nigeria, the Congo, Ethiopia, the Philippines and China.
Christianity’s rise in the Global South will cause the faith at large to be expressed with unique and new characteristics of each culture where it expands, Jenkins said. The attributes that develop in predominantly poor areas, he said, likely will bring major repercussions to Western, affluent, industrial Christianity.
GGBTS photo by Kate Weatherly
History professor Philip Jenkins from Baylor University speaks on the future of Christendom and its consequences at Golden Gate Seminary’s 10th annual Intersect conference.
For instance, the Bible will be heard rather than read within predominantly poor and illiterate people groups, Jenkins said, pointing out that listening changes the way authority is perceived. Biblical parables often overlooked by Western churches, he noted, tend to resonate with people of poorer cultures who can identify with searching their home for one lost coin or know firsthand that someone who is robbed and left on a well-traveled road will be passed by until a genuinely kind person decides to stop.
Distinctives from a predominantly poor Christianity will have an emphasis on healing and spiritual warfare deriving from shifting views on the causation of illness and differing concepts of spirituality and demonic evil, Jenkins continued.
“Are you prepared to take ideas of exorcism and witchcraft very seriously?” he asked.
In light of these changes to the Global South, Jenkins said the power of evangelism and missions no longer will be dedicated to intellect but to divine power at work – specifically in healing. The Western church has ascribed areas of physical and – more commonly – emotional healing to the secular world, but in order to be “change agents,” Jenkins suggested churches must respond to poverty, ministering to the body, mind and spirit.
The Intersect conference, which celebrated its 10th anniversary Nov. 4-5, is part of the legacy of Faith Kim, founder of The David and Faith Kim School of Global Missions at Golden Gate Seminary. The conference aims to shed light on points where culture and the gospel converge.
After Jenkins’ first lecture and a luncheon, a book signing was held in the student center, where students, faculty and area church leaders gathered to meet him. Among those at the book signing, master of divinity student Daniel Choi reflected that he had had a bleak outlook, thinking Christianity was phasing out, but the Intersect conference was giving him a new perspective.
Jenkins said in his second lecture, “We are living in a world where Christianity is spreading very rapidly, but looks very different.” While some people may be surprised or alarmed by the projected future, he said the movement toward the Global South is nothing new. It is a return to places where Christianity existed peacefully beside other major religions in such a way that a historical review reveals how many of their traditions overlapped.
Jenkins recounted that Buddhism and Christianity reached Tibet around the same time in 800 A.D., and a Christian bishop helped a traveling Buddhist missionary from India translate Buddhist sutras into Chinese, which later became a main source for Buddhist movements in Japan.
While many modern-day Christians would be perplexed why a bishop would do that, Jenkins said the lines between the faiths were drawn differently back then. The fascination of the bishop to understand the traditions of the Buddhist faith was not syncretism; rather, Jenkins said it was an ongoing attempt to see how Christianity could be framed in Asian dimensions.
In Christianity’s renewed move toward the Global South, Jenkins said these lines of faith and secularism will be less distinct, as they were in centuries past.
“If you look at Christianity of the West ... it’s half the story. The more we look at Christianity today as it develops its great centers in counties like China, like the Philippines, like the Congo, like Nigeria – we realize that Christianity is going back to what it was for the first three-quarters of its story.... It is resuming a normality that was broken for 400 or 500 years,” Jenkins said. “Do not see global Christianity as some radical departure of the faith; it is a restoration of normality.”
Jenkins is the author of The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South and The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.
Jenkins studied at the University of Cambridge and currently is a distinguished professor of history at Baylor. He also serves as co-director for the Program of Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Weatherly is a multimedia producer and writer for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (www.ggbts.edu), which operates five campuses in northern California, Southern California, Denver, Phoenix and the Pacific Northwest.)
12/12/2014 12:08:20 PM
December 12 2014 by
Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press
Kate Weatherly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
God called D.J. Jenkins
to a community with a population of around 40,000. In the midst of a mostly upper middle-class neighborhood full of young families, Jenkins set out to plant a church in a place where there were no evangelical churches. In many ways Studio City
is like a thousand other communities of around 40,000 people throughout North America.
Except that it’s very different.
Studio City is in the heart of Los Angeles, Calif.
, the third largest city on the continent and what many consider the cultural mecca of North America.
“It’s a super-influential area,” said Jenkins, a native Southern Californian who moved back to the area to plant Anthology Church. “Up in the hills you have the stars like George Clooney and Justin Bieber, but in the lower neighborhood you have everyone else – the writers, the camera operators and the editors that make Hollywood go.”
The Studio City community where Jenkins lives is one of 114 neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles. There are also 88 other cities in the metro L.A. area, including 16 with more than 100,000 in population. A total of 4,700 square miles, L.A. County is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
By nearly every demographic metric imaginable, metro L.A. is a behemoth – large, diverse and nearly overwhelming as a church planting destination. Though some of the largest and most influential evangelical churches in North America reside in Southern California, greater L.A. remains largely unreached. Only 8.3 percent of the population claims affiliation with an evangelical church, according to the North American Mission Board Center
(NAMB) for Missional Research. The area also has only one Southern Baptist church for every 18,794 people.
Photo courtesy D. J. Jenkins
Worship leader Steve Cabrillos leads praise music during a preview service for Anthology Church, a church plant in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles. Church planter D.J. Jenkins is part of a new Send North America: Los Angeles contingency of church planters who are trying to push back lostness in one of the most unreached metro areas in North America.
, NAMB’s Send North America: Los Angeles city missionary, has noted that pushing back lostness in the city will require less of a focus on a monolithic Los Angeles and more of a focus on the diverse peoples and places that make up the region.
“I think one of the things that planters need to realize as we reach this city is that we must focus on reaching the neighborhoods like Westwood, Downey or Compton – rather than L.A. as a whole,” Pitt said. “It’s those neighborhoods that have the identity. There is no L.A. identity.”
Despite the vast task of reaching a metro area as large and diverse as Los Angeles, Southern Baptists have begun to see signs of progress. For example, Pitt says he’s seen a plethora of church planters trusting God to provide financially as they make their homes in especially expensive communities rather than trying to plant while living elsewhere.
“We’re seeing church planters come and move into places with a high cost of living,” Pitt said. “They’re demonstrating faith as they’re looking at how they can raise money and how they can make family decisions to cut back. They’re paying the price and moving to places of great need.”
Pitt also pointed to First Baptist Church of Woodstock
, Ga., as another sign for optimism in the city. Earlier this year Los Angeles became one of the last Send North America cities to get connected to a lead partner church. FBC Woodstock took on the assignment after their own youth pastor, Matt Lawson
, accepted God’s call to start a church in L.A. As the lead partner for NAMB’s Send North America: Los Angeles effort, Woodstock has become a champion for the city within its network of influence.
The church’s senior pastor, former Southern Baptist Convention president Johnny Hunt
has already led several vision tours to Los Angeles with fellow pastors.
“L.A. is too big for us,” Hunt said. “Woodstock has taken the role of lead partner for L.A. church planting. When you take on an area with 88 cities in it and 19 million people [based upon the Combined Statistical Area] – twice the size of the state where I live – and to realize how very few evangelical churches are there, I knew we couldn’t do it alone. We would need partners.”
Hunt began reaching out to pastor friends and urging them to join him on vision tours, reminding them they’d be under no obligation once they returned home. Hunt says the response to those vision trips has been overwhelming, particularly to see how many churches have connected to planters and to what level they’ve done so.
This work of partnership development is critical, Pitt says, to the future of church planting in Los Angeles. He emphasizes that all sizes of churches can help L.A. planters through partnerships.
“I think partner churches underestimate how encouraging they can be for church planters,” said Pitt, who previously pastored Fellowship Church of Burbank
, a replant with an attendance of 50 that started seven other congregations in its building and helped plant five other L.A. churches
“They think they’re too small. They don’t understand how significant their partnership could be. That’s one of the things we’re trying to dispel. You can make a huge impact – no matter your size.”
Pitt mentioned one particular small church from Louisiana whose pastor came to the city for a vision tour earlier this year and left with a passionate desire to get his church involved.
“They don’t have a lot of people,” Pitt said. “They’re thinking the closest we’ll ever be to L.A. is that we live in a state with ‘La.’ as the initials! They look nothing like L.A., but they want to partner, they want to pray, they want to come out as a team.”
Hunt said pastors will likely have two reactions to the enormous challenge involved in reaching Los Angeles – either it’ll be too big and they’ll shrink from it or it’ll be a challenge that’s so big they’ll want to be a part of it.
“When you realize that [Los Angeles] is telling stories to the world that are influencing culture, and we get an opportunity to tell His story to the story-makers – it’s an overwhelming opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Hunt said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information about how your church can get involved in reaching Los Angeles with the gospel – including a video you can show in your church, visit www.namb.net/losangeles.)
12/12/2014 11:57:33 AM
December 12 2014 by
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service
Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Director Angelina Jolie defended her decision to portray a “universal” faith in her upcoming film “Unbroken,” saying she took her cues from the evangelical World War II hero whose harrowing tale is the basis of her film.
“Unbroken” features the real-life story of Louis Zamperini, who endured a plane crash in the Pacific, 47 days adrift at sea and two years as a Japanese prisoner of war.
In the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand of the same name, Zamperini’s story reaches its climax when he embraces Christianity at a Billy Graham crusade in 1949 and finds the ability to forgive his captors.
Jolie’s depiction of a what some might see as generic faith prompted mixed early reviews of the film and led some to ask whether Christian fans of the book would leave the theater disappointed.
“We made it universal, not specific to one faith, and that was something that was agreed upon with Louie,” Jolie told reporters on Dec. 5. “He said he wanted the message to reach everyone. He said to make faith and forgiveness universal.”
Photo courtesy of Universal
Angelina Jolie with Louis Zamperini.
Jolie, who directed the film, argued that the film does not neglect portrayals of faith.
“He said this is about reaching everyone, this should speak to everyone, and we were very clear on his parents’ faith, they being Catholic. … We’re very clear on him praying,” she said. “If you were looking for symbolism and miracles in the film, you will see them.”
The World War II epic, set to release on Christmas Day, does not mention Graham but ends with a brief mention of Zamperini’s promise to serve God. Zamperini died last summer at age 97.
At a separate news conference here, Zamperini’s two children told reporters they were pleased with Jolie’s approach. His son, Luke Zamperini, said Hillenbrand’s book was powerful because it was not a Christian book.
“The film, I think, portrays beautifully his faith throughout,” the younger Zamperini said. “The message is there, and it’s there in a way that’s going to get people to think, to find out for themselves exactly what this means. This is the way my father also presented the gospel to people. He just told a story and let them come up with their own conclusions.”
Zamperini’s daughter, Cynthia Garris, said that if Jesus came up in the film, people might not want to see it, so the strategy was to try to attract as many people as possible.
“If they wanted to know more about how he got through it, how he survived it, they could investigate it,” she said. “He never wanted to preach at them but live the example. It was absolutely sanctioned by him. This is what he told us he wanted.”
Garris recalled that while shooting in New South Wales, Australia, Jolie sought a miracle when a lingering storm threatened to disrupt a critical scene.
“She said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do, so I’ll do what Louie would do.’ She got on her knees, she demonstrated for us … and she prayed for a miracle. … Everybody saw it,” Garris said. “It stopped raining. The sun came out, a rainbow came out. She said, ‘Let’s get this take.’ They shot the take. When she said, ‘Cut,’ it started to rain again.”
Garris said her father’s ability to reach people touched Jolie, a self-professed agnostic.
“She was moved by my father’s faith to try that, and that’s what he wants for people to get from the movie,” Garris said. “I’ll tell you, when my father died we were all with him in the hospital. (Jolie) came about 45 minutes later and she was pointing above saying, ‘I know he’s with us. I know he’s there with God.’ And he even moved her. I think maybe in God’s plan for Angelina, she was supposed to find Louie and make this movie to find her way to a life that would encompass the Almighty.”
Jolie said she intentionally made the film PG-13 so it could be one her sons could see.
“It’s a movie for everybody,” Jolie said. “I want my children to know about men like Louis, so when they feel bad about themselves and they think all is lost, they know they’ve got something inside of them because this is what that story speaks to. You don’t have to be a perfect person, or a saint, or a hero. Louis was very flawed, very human, but made great choices.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for Religion News Service.)
12/12/2014 11:50:08 AM
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments