News

Preparing the way for Jesus through a Hungarian school

July 12 2016 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

When László Petró was growing up in Hungary, the government kept an eye on churchgoers. Under communist rule, the country kept track of which children attended church. Bible studies were prohibited and rarely mentioned.

BSC screen capture
László Petró was first deterred from having an English Bible camp at his school in Hungary but North Carolina Baptists changed his mind. He saw how this group from America was treating his students and his teachers. “This week changed not only me, but many of us,” he said.


As a result, it was only in 2012 when Petró, then the principal of a school in Nagyhalász, came into contact with people of faith for the first time. That year, Hungary had passed a law allocating care for some of its poorer schools to nonprofits in the nation.
 
Hungarian Baptist Aid was one such nonprofit, and Petró’s school, one of Hungary’s poorest, fell under its jurisdiction. In 2014, N.C. Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission (NCBM), a partner of Hungarian Baptist Aid, came to lead an English Bible camp at Petró’s school.
 
NCBM, funded almost entirely by the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), receives 41 percent of the funds from the offering.
 
In addition to the project in Hungary, NCBM also conducts mission work in six other countries, sharing the gospel in these nations and providing holistic services, such as health care and renovations.
 
When Petró was first presented with the idea of having an English Bible camp hosted at his school, he said that the camp’s religious nature deterred him. But then, he saw the way that the North Carolina teachers treated the students. They encouraged the students, he said. They were positive and did not scold the children, treating all of them – both the Hungarian students and the marginalized Roma students – with kindness.
 
The camp’s structure was much like that of a Vacation Bible School – the students went from station to station, learning about different aspects of the English language, American culture and the Bible along the way.
 
“Every day there’s a Bible study class in which they learn the gospel, but then all the other five classes can weave the gospel into the games they play and the lessons they teach,” said Alicia Jones, on-site coordinator for the Roma Project, full-time missionary to the Roma people and teacher at the camp. 
 
The students who participated in the camp were very intelligent – they were 100 of the school’s brightest students, selected by the principal.
 
However, they had no knowledge of anything in the Bible. Neither did the chaperones – public school teachers who supervised the students and sat in on the sessions.
 
“This work is very important because the door is wide open right now for us to share the gospel in schools in Hungary … it’s important for us to come and offer these camps to them while we have that opportunity,” Jones said.
 
Their work reaped a harvest. At the end of the weeklong camp, the students performed what they had learned for their parents at an assembly. The students sang Christmas songs and quoted Bible verses in English, and at the end of the night, an altar call was given.
 
“I watched in amazement as the principal (Petró) and his wife, teachers of the school, workers from the cafeteria, and parents together with their children flooded to the front of the gymnasium in response,” Jones said. “More than 150 stood together, praying to receive Christ and afterwards began crying, dancing and celebrating their newfound faith.”
 
“This week changed not only me, but many of us,” Petró said. He and his colleagues, who once did not know the Lord, now live their lives to show the love of Jesus to others. They carry out projects to fix the houses of families who cannot do it themselves, they give out meals to those in need, and they sponsor children in other countries.
 
Although much has already changed at Petró’s school, he still looks forward to how God will continue to transform his life – his family is preparing to be baptized, and he would like to plant a church in the future. “All these things are plans, and I trust the Lord that He will make these a reality,” he said.

7/12/2016 9:25:04 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



N.C. Pastors’ Conference to celebrate God, country

July 12 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The theme for the 2016 North Carolina Baptist Pastors’ Conference is “Worth Fighting For,” according to conference president Cameron McGill. Speakers will address a patriotic theme.


“The emphasis is that our nation is worth fighting for,” McGill said. The Sunday night service will honor those who have served or are presently serving in the United States armed forces.
 
Bobby Welch, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will preach an evangelistic message and share his personal story in the opening session. He will underscore that “souls are worth fighting for,” according to McGill.
 
Welch, who served in the Vietnam War, was injured in combat and believed dead.
 
A medic saw signs of life and revived him. The Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient’s experience was a major turning point in his life and played a significant role in his call to preach.
 
“We want to thank the military personnel for their brave service – whether they are currently serving or have served in the past,” McGill said.
 
“Ultimately we want to thank the One who gave His life to rescue and redeem us from sin.”
 
The Sunday service includes a testimony from Tom Martin, a Vietnam veteran who was shot down in combat and left for dead.
 
McGill, who serves as pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church and The Lake Church said the three-fold purpose of this year’s conference is first to offer an event that is “encouraging to N.C. pastors at a time when we certainly need to be encouraged to keep the faith. Second, it is a time to honor those that have served us.
 
“Thirdly, we plan to give an evangelistic challenge to those patriots who have never had a personal relationship with Jesus.”
 
Music in the Sunday evening service will be led by the Mighty Echoes, an African-American group, and by the praise team from Dublin First Baptist and The Lake Church.
 
Monday’s services will focus on other areas “worth fighting for, including the family, the Word of God, our denomination – what it means to be a N.C. Baptist – and the challenges we face in our state,” McGill added.
Preachers include C.J. Bordeaux, retired pastor and now director of missions for the Pee Dee Baptist Association; Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte; and Tom Wagoner, lead pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dunn.
 
Two father-and-son teams will share on the program: Timmy and Brandon Blair, and Hampton and Ethan Drum. Timmy Blair is senior pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier and the current president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Hampton Drum is senior pastor of Langston Baptist Church in Conway, S.C. The pastors’ sons, Brandon and Ethan, will share from their recent experiences in the military.
 
“Never has there been a time in our nation’s history where the people of God needed to stand up, stand firm and stand together, and realize all that is worth fighting for,” McGill said.
 
He said pastors fight for many things, “but maybe we have lost sight of what we should be fighting for. We need to fight for those souls who are lost in sin.
 
“We’re not just supposed to be salt that stings, but salt that preserves, also. Not just light that identifies the sin, but light that illuminates the Savior. This is where the theme stemmed from in my heart. I think God has put the right people together for this conference.
 
“I think we are in most tumultuous days as a nation, but as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, we’re in some of the most fruitful days and days of greatest harmony,” he said.
 
“As a convention we seem to be heading in the same direction together and our prayer is that it is in the right direction.”

The pastor’s conference will be held Nov. 13-14 in Greensboro’s Koury Convention Center, two days after Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

7/12/2016 9:20:15 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists aid West Virginia with flood relief efforts

July 12 2016 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

When the Cherry River started to rise in Richwood, W.Va., Rena Gee knew it was time to call her grandson for help.

Contributed photo
North Carolina Baptists prepare to tackle flood recovery efforts in West Virginia. Volunteers are needed for the more than 150 jobs that have already been requested.


When he arrived at her house, the water in Gee’s yard was knee deep and getting higher by the minute. Her grandson carried her to his vehicle, and together, they fled the rising water to safety.
 
It was the beginning of epic flooding in the small town. 
 
Since June 24, North Carolina Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission (NCBM), has been ministering in several towns and communities in Nicholas County, W.Va. Torrential storms dumped up to 10 inches of rain in a 12-hour period in late June, causing massive flooding to many parts of the Mountaineer State.
 
“The water just came up so fast,” Gee remembered. “I have never before seen anything like it. In hardly no time, it knocked down my chain-link fence and was into my house.”
 
In light of the flooding in the area, NCBM has been working alongside other relief organizations to distribute food, assess and repair damaged homes, and provide chaplaincy services in Nicholas County. As NCBM volunteers help the flood victims put their lives back in order, they are also sharing the love of Christ.
 
“The needs here are so great,” said Bill Fogarty, site commander for the efforts in West Virginia. “We know that the God of all comfort, as scripture describes, will comfort them in ways that we can’t, but we try to be His hands and feet.”
 
Already, NCBM has received 150 recovery job requests, and Gee’s house is one of them. After Gee and her grandson evacuated, the NCBM disaster relief volunteers cleared her yard of the debris when floodwaters receded. Then, they turned their attention to the inside of Gee’s house, beginning the heartbreaking process of throwing out everything damaged by the floodwaters.
 
A washing machine and dryer, refrigerator and freezer, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, furniture, carpets, hardwood flooring and plaster walls were piled high in front of Gee’s house. West Virginia National Guard troops had begun making pickups of Gee’s trashed belongings and hauling them to the town dump.
 
Richard Brunson, executive director of NCBM, said volunteers are still needed for the ongoing relief efforts in West Virginia.
 
“We need a lot of volunteers to help with the recovery jobs requests,” Brunson said. “There are many hurting people in West Virginia who need our prayers and our help.”
 
Individuals may sign up to volunteer, make a donation and receive updates on the relief efforts through a special portal on NCBM’s website available at baptistsonmission.org/wvflood.
 
Gaylon Moss, who serves as NCBM’s disaster relief director, said funds received through the annual North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) make disaster relief efforts like those currently underway in West Virginia possible.
 
“There’s no way we can be prepared for disaster response without training and acquiring equipment and resources for when the time comes,” Moss said. “The NCMO helps us to be prepared through the resources it provides us.”
 
As for Gee, she is safe, staying with her daughter in a nearby community.
 
“I cannot begin to thank these wonderful [NCBM volunteers] for everything they have done so far,” Gee said. “They are a real blessing to us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – NCBM contributed reporting to this article.)

7/12/2016 9:12:38 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Hispanic pastors raise concerns over Trump advisory board

July 11 2016 by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer

The Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance (HBPA) released a statement June 23 expressing concern over the agreement of faith leaders to join Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board. The statement came as a response to Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, naming 25 individuals to advise him on religion and politics June 21.

HBPA Photo


Trump’s executive advisory board includes at least eight Southern Baptists, including Ronnie Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC); David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, El Cajon, Calif.; and James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Chicago, Ill. The Trump campaign released the list following an invitation-only meeting with about 1,000 evangelical pastors and leaders in New York, N.Y.
 
The Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance expressed concern for Trump’s questionable character and harsh language toward the Hispanic community, but more so for Southern Baptist pastors joining with faith leaders the council called “false teachers.” The statement specifically named Kenneth Copeland and Paula White, two televangelists identified with preaching a prosperity gospel.
 
“They have deceived many in our Hispanic communities,” the council stated in the response. “In our churches, we have received many who have been victims of their fairy tales and false promises. … By being part of a board with people like Copeland and White we send the wrong message to our churches and to our society, as if they are ‘evangelicals’ as we are.”
 
Former SBC presidents Jimmy Draper and Jerry Vines also released an open letter calling Southern Baptists to “be unified in faith and conduct.” Prompted by controversy over the attendance of Southern Baptists at the June 21 meeting with Trump and the willingness of some to serve as advisors, they wrote, “Let us not use our ‘liberty’ to attack and denigrate fellow believers who exercise their ‘liberty’ in a different way.”
 
Draper, who served as SBC president 1982-1984, and Vines, who served 1989-1990, said serving on the advisory board is not an endorsement by any of the pastors but an opportunity for faith leaders to provide godly counsel to a presidential nominee.
 
According to the Trump campaign, members of the advisory board will convene on a regular basis and be responsible for leading a larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee that has yet to be announced.

7/11/2016 4:46:51 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR staff writer | with 0 comments



First female parliamentarian applauds SBC teamwork

July 11 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

It’s unlikely that many baseball players have ever read Section 7.01 of the Major League Baseball official rulebook, which says “a runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out.” Yet, it’s the first rule young batters learn after connecting with a pitch – run! Players eagerly comply with the guideline as they sprint to first base, not because they enjoy thumbing through pages of tedious regulations, but because they love to play the game.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Amy Whitfield, far right, listens carefully during a business session of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Whitfield worked closely with fellow assistant parliamentarians and Barry McCarty, center, chief parliamentarian, to help SBC business run smoothly.


Amy Whitfield, the Southern Baptist Convention’s first female parliamentarian, beams with the same genuine excitement when she talks about participating in the denomination’s yearly business meeting. Many Southern Baptists balk at the routine lineup of motions, resolutions and points of order, but Whitfield enjoys the play-by-play action.
 
She loves to see messengers representing churches across the nation work together to make decisions about the cooperative ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
“That is my favorite thing about how our deliberative body works,” Whitfield said. “It demonstrates a level of fairness … and the ability to get things done.”
 

Joining the team

Whitfield currently serves as the director of communications for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and has formerly worked at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. She is a member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh.
 
The two-term SBC president for 2015-16, Ronnie Floyd, recruited Whitfield to be an assistant parliamentarian for the annual meeting, which took place June 14-15 in St. Louis, Mo.
 
She remembers watching SBC president Frank Page and chief parliamentarian Barry McCarty on stage at the 2008 SBC annual meeting as they put Robert’s Rules of Order into play, moderating one of the largest deliberative bodies in the world. “It would be so fun to do that,” Whitfield said at the time. “I never in a million years thought I’d get a chance to participate.”
 
McCarty said Floyd initiated the conversation about calling up a diverse group of younger Baptists to assist McCarty in his work as chief parliamentarian.
 
Whitfield said it was “kind of a surprise” when Floyd asked her about joining the lineup, which included Craig Culbreth, lead catalyst for mission and ministry with the Florida Baptist Convention; Adam Greenway, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and John Sullivan, former executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention.

“They were an absolutely magnificent team,” said McCarty. “They were essential.”

 

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
At left, Amy Whitfield is recognized by Kathie Litton, national director of ministry to pastor’s wives for the North American Mission Board, during the women’s breakfast hosted June 15 by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Parliamentary training

Whitfield developed skills in parliamentary procedure as a politics major at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C., where she took part in model international diplomacy competitions, debating top-tier schools like Harvard University and other Ivy League institutions. She held leadership positions in the diplomatic simulation program, vice-chairing a committee and serving as the Assistant Secretary General, which required her to moderate the general assembly.
 
There were no parliamentarians in the debates to answer procedural questions about the finer points of Robert’s Rules, she said. Participants had to cover all the bases. “I didn’t learn parliamentary procedure to be a parliamentarian,” said Whitfield. “I learned parliamentary procedure to participate in meetings.”
 
By the time she observed her first SBC annual meeting, she was no rookie. Her in-depth experience gave her a unique perspective. “It all made sense to me,” she said.
 
Whitfield is currently pursuing certification in both of the parliamentary accrediting entities recognized by the SBC, the American Institute of Parliamentarians and the National Association of Parliamentarians.
 

Working together

She is honored to be the first female parliamentarian, and many of her fellow Baptists made a point to congratulate her at the 2016 annual meeting.
 
“I appreciated the encouragement,” said Whitfield. “It meant a lot.”
 
She said her favorite part of being assistant parliamentarian was simply contributing to the team.

Whitfield recalled a particular example, when Steven Rummage, chair of the 2016 SBC Resolutions Committee, asked her for advice about his upcoming presentation. “We just sat for about 15 minutes and worked,” she said. “I never felt different from the rest. I felt like a part of the team.”
 
She emphasized that teamwork is the “end goal for females participating in [SBC life] … that we’re all hands on deck – all working together.”

7/11/2016 4:30:48 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Student embraces boldness in sharing Christ

July 11 2016 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Although Emily Mitchell was excited to participate in this year’s Crossover evangelism efforts in St. Louis, she often found herself feeling discouraged and, at times, even inferior.

SWBTS photo
Students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary go door to door sharing the gospel.


Mitchell has only been active in church for about two years, with God calling her to join a congregation one year and to ministry the next. She just completed her first year in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s master’s in Christian education program, but struggled with feeling inadequate in sharing her faith compared to other Southwestern students and faculty. As the team began hitting the streets of St. Louis, however, Mitchell had one area of solace.
 
Prior to the trip, God had spoken to Mitchell’s heart at a church service in Illinois. “I love you, Emily,” she felt Him saying, “not for what you do, but just for who you are.”
 
With this as her foundation, Mitchell, who had never led someone to the Lord prior to Crossover, obediently shared the gospel with those whom God placed in her path. Over the course of her time in St. Louis, as well as the week after, God used Mitchell to bring three people to Christ.
 
“I never memorized the ‘Romans Road,’ and others on the trip knew it by heart,” Mitchell said of her initial feelings of inadequacy. “[But] each day, as I shared more and more, I began to be more bold, and God brought verses from Romans I didn’t even know that I knew!”
 
The first person whom Mitchell led to the Lord was a woman she encountered walking down the street. After sharing with her the message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Mitchell asked the woman if she would like to respond at that moment.
 
When the woman said “yes,” Mitchell responded, “Really?!” Mitchell proceeded to lead the woman in prayer, and she became a follower of Christ at that time.
 
The second encounter occurred a few days later. Mitchell accidentally left several books she received while attending the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at a nearby restaurant in St. Louis. When she returned to retrieve them, the waitress had them waiting for her.
 
“Thank you for keeping these for me,” Mitchell said to her. “Have some! They are Christian books. You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” The waitress replied, “What is the difference? I don’t know what a Christian is.”
 
Mitchell shared the gospel with her, and before she even had the chance to extend an invitation, the waitress said, “I want to be a Christian tonight. I want to make that decision.”
 
Mitchell and the other Southwestern students with her proceeded to explain to the waitress how to become a Christian, and the woman gave her life to Christ. They then prayed over her and gave her a Bible.
 
When Mitchell returned to Fort Worth, she knew she had been changed by her experiences in St. Louis but nevertheless expected to find “the same routine life” she had left. But before leaving work one day soon after her return, she spent a few minutes sharing with a co-worker about her trip and all that God had done. This recounting of events gradually morphed into a gospel presentation, and the co-worker’s response proved that God was not done using Mitchell in an evangelistic way.
 
“I feel something in my heart right now,” the co-worker said, “and I am really excited. I want to say the prayer today. I want to be a Christian.”
 
“That’s three people who made a decision,” Mitchell noted. “All I did was open my mouth with nothing rehearsed and nothing contrived – just the Holy Spirit using me.
 
“Even though those precious souls are very blessed with their newfound faith, I know I am so blessed, too, because God chose me in my weakened state with nothing to boast about, and He loved me enough to use me to share His glory. He is really awesome, and I know now without a shadow of a doubt that He loves me and loves us all as we really are.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

7/11/2016 8:43:08 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments



Missouri Baptist Foundation appeal turned down

July 11 2016 by Missouri Pathway Staff

The Missouri Court of Appeals has denied a motion by the Missouri Baptist Foundation to reconsider its ruling that the foundation return trustee governance to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).


The July 5 ruling affirmed a unanimous three-judge panel’s ruling May 24 to return the foundation to the Missouri convention after 15 years of control by a self-appointed, self-perpetuating board. The foundation motion asked for a rehearing before all 11 judges of the Western District Court of Appeals in Kansas City.
 
An appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court is the foundation’s final option after repeated setbacks in the lower courts. After all appeals are exhausted, the case will return to the Circuit Court of Cole County to supervise the transition to convention-elected trustees.
 
The Court of Appeals’ July 5 ruling is among an array of court proceedings stemming from actions by breakaway trustees of the foundation, with $150 million in assets, and four other Missouri Baptist Convention entities in 2000-2001.
 
The May 24 appeals court ruling upheld an October 2014 judgment by the Cole County circuit court ordering the restoration of foundation governance to MBC-elected trustees. The foundation appealed the trial decision to the Missouri appeals court, with a three-judge panel hearing arguments in September 2015.
 
The appeals court, in its May 24 ruling, had stated that “the Convention has standing to challenge the Foundation’s disregard of provisions of its organizational documents which gave the Convention the right to review and approve any amendments.”
 
The court cited a 1994 charter of the 70-year-old Missouri Baptist Foundation defining it as “a charitable corporation” under Missouri statutes “to support the mission of Missouri Baptists by ‘developing, managing and distributing financial resources … as the trust service agency of the Missouri Baptist Convention.’”
 
The appeals court also left standing a lower-court ruling on attorney’s fees and costs for the litigation. The trial court had ordered the foundation to pay the convention’s legal fees and costs, finding intentional misconduct on the part of the trustees of the breakaway board.
 
Church Mutual Insurance paid the MBC $5 million to settle the fee claim in January 2015.
 
The Missouri convention, prior to seeking a declaratory legal judgment, had offered private reconciliation and then binding Christian arbitration but the foundation’s self-perpetuating board declined the overtures.
 
The Baptist foundation was one of five MBC subsidiary corporations which broke from the convention in 2000-2001 by changing their charters to create self-perpetuating trustee boards. The other breakaway entities are the 1,300-acre Windermere Baptist Conference Center along the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri Baptist University, The Baptist Home retirement center and Word & Way newsjournal.
 
Although the breakaway Windermere board continues to exist, the conference center deeded about 970 acres to a lender about 10 years ago in lieu of foreclosure, leading to the 2014 recovery by the MBC of 970 acres for $1.6 million, a heavily discounted price.
 
Convention court action continues for recovering Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Home retirement center. Both entities’ charters contain a consent clause similar to the foundation’s, so the appeals court rulings may be vital to the resolution of the other cases.
 
The Word & Way has been replaced by The Pathway as newsjournal of the convention.
 
John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, noted after the May 24 appeals court ruling, “We are eager to welcome the foundation back into the MBC family, and we look forward to a smooth transition in governance for the benefit of all investors.”
 
Yeats, quoted in The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri convention, said, “Our prayer, and our humble desire before God, is that the foundation’s self-appointed board would graciously acknowledge the court’s ruling and end the prolonged legal battles that have been a distraction to the cooperative mission of MBC churches.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, and by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston.)
 

7/11/2016 8:33:36 AM by Missouri Pathway Staff | with 0 comments



Social media speaks Central Asian ‘heart language’

July 11 2016 by Nicole Lee, IMB

Noor,* a Muslim-background believer in Central Asia, has been praying with a heart like Simeon’s for many years.

IMB Photo
The increasing popularity of mobile phones in Central Asia has opened the way for a minority people group to gain access to the gospel through a website and Facebook page in their heart language.


“You know that story in the Bible when Simeon sees Jesus and says that he can now die in peace?” Noor asked. “I want God to let me see a church in my heart language before I die. That would be my Simeon moment,” he said.
 
Noor is now beginning to see the work he has been hoping for among his own people.
 
Through a new website and Facebook page, Noor’s people now have an opportunity to see and hear God’s Word in their own language. Thousands of visitors have accessed the sites, and a recent offer for a free Bible yielded more than 70 requests. Noor has been able to make contact with seekers, is meeting weekly with individuals, and has begun a weekly worship service in the local heart language.
 
“The time has come,” said Jerry,* a Christian worker in Central Asia who has been burdened for years to begin a work among Noor’s people group.
 
The political climate in this part of the world has made contact with them a sensitive issue. As a result, the majority-language believers had not attempted ministry in the minority language. But because of Jerry’s burden for the minority group, and some political changes in the country, he began cautiously learning their language a few years ago.
 
Jerry had an idea he hoped to bring to fruition in God’s timing. Correspondence courses, a method of Bible teaching in which the teachers and students communicated through mail, worked well decades ago in establishing the majority language church.
 
Jerry envisioned doing something similar to reach this smaller pocket of people in their heart language. He recalled hearing a story of one man who read the Bible in his heart language and expressed that he could not only understand it, but he could “feel” it. This man’s story inspired Jerry to make material available as soon as possible.
 
“Language and identity are closely related,” Jerry said. “When you address someone in their heart language, it gives them a sense of significance.”
 
In 2013 Jerry met Noor, and their shared vision forged a providential partnership. At the same time, the political situation improved and there was a new openness toward this people group. Jerry began to hear the language spoken in public, and there was more liberty to identify with the group.
 
At the church level, ministry in the minority language became a necessity as speakers of the language fled the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group and flooded this country. The national church, made up of first-generation Muslim-background believers, embraced the refugee ministry, and the results have been outstanding. Last year they raised more than $1 million in donations to help the refugees, gave out over 10,000 Bibles, and shared the gospel with many in the minority language.
 
Jerry and Noor seized this opportunity to begin a modern-day version of the correspondence course ministry through the new website and Facebook page. They also hope to set up tables at book fairs and perform open-air dramas and concerts.
 
“We feel like we’re right on the verge of where we’ve been working to get for the past three years,” Jerry said. “Groundwork is being laid. Soil is being tilled. That’s a major victory. The fact that this is happening with knowledge and with consent and blessing of majority church leadership is a huge success.”
 
However, a new cycle of political tensions are threatening the work. As the situation deteriorates in the country politically, the work becomes more precarious. The government keeps close tabs on the evangelical church and scrutinizes its actions, making it wary of calling attention to itself.
 
“Where does this ministry go from here?” Jerry asked. “We’re moving on, trying to be wise, praying that the door stays open.”
 
Thankfully the minority group now has access to the Bible in their heart language and has a point of contact through Noor.

Pray for Jerry and Noor as they continue to work to see a church planted among this group:

  • Pray for the political situation – that peace and stability will return to the country and that tensions will decrease between the people groups.
  • Pray that Jerry and Noor will have freedom to operate and that the national church will continue to be supportive.
  • Pray that many from this minority people group will respond to the gospel.

To learn more about how you can help Jerry and Noor’s work among this minority people, visit netcommunity.imb.org/giving-search-page and search for the keyword “Facebook.”

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Lee is a writer for IMB based in Europe.)

7/11/2016 8:24:46 AM by Nicole Lee, IMB | with 0 comments



Animated video spotlights CP’s ‘broad, sweeping reach’

July 8 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Cooperative Program’s (CP) full reach likely won’t be grasped until its supporters reach heaven and see the many nations and individuals who’ve benefitted from Southern Baptists’ giving, Matt Tullos told Baptist Press.
 

Screen capture from Vimeo


Tullos, associate director of Communications and Stewardship for the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC), said the LBC’s latest animated video seeks to spotlight CP’s reach, using a child’s dream to tell the story.
 
“It’s hard for people to wrap their minds around just how practical it is,” Tullos said of CP, “and so we decided we would put it in the voice of a child, just to show how simple the whole concept of the Cooperative Program is as well as kind of show what our work as Southern Baptists would be if it wasn’t there.”
 
The video, “CP Turns Dreams into Real Life,” features a girl who meets others in her dream who share how CP has helped them.
 
“We originally intended it to be mainly for our events for children, and for youth, but it played so well with our adults,” Tullos said. “We were really surprised that our adults really resonated with the video and it’s been probably our most popular animation that we’ve done so far, as far as its response from people about it.”
 
The video gives practical insight into how CP donations are used, viewers have told Tullos, who points to such beneficiaries as a Louisiana children’s home, college ministries, the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board in showcasing the CP’s “broad, sweeping impact.”
 
Produced by Tullos and LBC Communications Director John Kyle, the video is the LBC’s fourth animation regarding the CP. While some of the videos have focused specifically on Louisiana, the latest video is appropriate for use by all states, Tullos said.
 
“I think even the state version we have is pretty applicable to everybody,” Tullos said. “I just hope that God uses it in an amazing way, and that as many people who have an opportunity to use it will use it. That sure makes our job meaningful.”
 
Described as the CP Kids Rant, the video joins two CP Rant videos the LBC produced to communicate particularly with young pastors. Other LBC videos on the CP are an unanimated video, The Pledge, which encourages pastors to increase CP giving by specified percentages, and the related animated video, The Pledge Rant.
 
The videos are purposefully multicultural, Tullos said.
 
“We have such a broad scope of ethnic variety in our state,” Tullos said, “and its actually one of the things that’s a real priority this year for Louisiana Baptists, is that we want to promote churches ... looking more like heaven, because we know that’s what heaven’s going to look like, and so many times our churches are not that way.
 
“I’ve heard one pastor say that the churches are the last bastion of segregation, which is really sad. So we’re really making that a priority too.”
 
He encourages Southern Baptists to support the CP, using the hypothetical example of a young mother’s impact through the CP.
 
“Her ability to do ministry is probably limited by her children and by her time of life. But when she gives to the Cooperative Program, she’s actually having an impact in scores of nations all over the world with our missions, our missionaries, and then she’s on every college campus where our [Baptist Collegiate Ministries] are,” Tullos said. “She’s helping orphans in our children’s home. She’s helping plant churches.... Her impact as a young mother who’s giving to the church – and the church giving to the Cooperative Program – is having an impact that she will never fully grasp until she gets to heaven and sees what her giving has done.”
 
Working together just “makes so much more sense” than working individually, he said.
 

The latest video is available for free download on Vimeo at vimeo.com/155009870.
 
7/8/2016 11:51:44 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘I was born this way’ countered by professor

July 8 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) professor Alan Branch has a friend whose brother explained his decision to embrace a homosexual lifestyle by stating, “I have a male body, but I have a female brain. That’s why I’m attracted to men.”


Branch, professor of Christian ethics, classifies that pronouncement as a version of the increasingly common argument that homosexual acts are morally legitimate because homosexuality is “hard-wired into who [some people] are from birth.” As Branch sees it, the argument has been articulated in settings as diverse as the halls of academia, the lyrics of pop singer Lady Gaga and casual family conversations.
 
The need to equip Christians for countering that spurious notion is why Branch wrote his latest book Born This Way? Homosexuality, Science, and the Scriptures, published by Weaver Book Company.
 
The book, which has drawn an endorsement from MBTS President Jason Allen, seeks to help pastors and churches understand contemporary scientific research on homosexuality from a Christian worldview perspective while standing firm on the biblical teaching that homosexual behavior is a sin.
 
“The prevalent claim ‘I was born this way’ is over-simplified and does not fit the evidence to date,” Branch told Baptist Press in an email.
 
“Biological and genetic factors have a contributing factor towards the development of a homosexual identity, but they are not completely determinative,” he noted. “The big point is that homosexuality is not a trait like hair, skin or eye color. Establishing this basic fact will help in the articulation of a clear Christian ethical stance regarding the morality of homosexual behavior.”
 
Three key contributors to the misguided “I was born this way” argument, Branch writes, are:

  1. Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who helped pioneer the idea some forms of homosexuality are innate;
  2. Twentieth-century sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, who popularized the falsehood that 10 percent of males are homosexual; and
  3. The American Psychiatric Association, which succumbed to political pressure in 1974 by removing homosexuality from its catalog of mental disorders in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.”

An important tool for countering the argument that homosexuality is innate and therefore morally acceptable is the concept of “brain plasticity,” Branch writes, the notion that brain structures and functions change in response to choices and activities.
 
Like pornography use has been demonstrated to alter a male’s response to women, repeatedly acting on homosexual desires may ingrain such desires in a person’s brain, developing new neural pathways and making them feel “natural,” he argues.
 
Biological and genetic factors contribute to same-sex attraction, Branch writes, but do not predetermine how a person will respond to such attraction. Among his conclusions:

  • “While prenatal hormones are essential for gender development in the womb and ... some real problems can develop when” hormones are not secreted correctly in a mother’s womb, “the born-this-way argument that prenatal hormones unalterably fix same-sex attraction has not been proven.”
  • No definite link between brain structure and homosexuality has been demonstrated, but there have been “intriguing findings” regarding the differences between the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals.
  • Studies of identical twins suggest “a genetic contributing factor to homosexuality may be at work.”
  • “While there have been some intriguing discoveries regarding DNA and homosexuality, as of yet no evidence confirms a simplistic born-this-way argument.” Even if a so-called “gay gene” were discovered, its presence would not uncontrollably compel a person to act on same-sex attraction.

Rather than intimidating Christians, scientific research should help them develop a compassionate, pastoral response to those with same-sex attraction, Branch writes, noting the difficulty in most cases of completely eradicating homosexual temptation.
 
“We must face the current data with honesty, but also with discernment. Movement on a continuum of orientation change is possible for some, but it is not as easy or as frequent as many of us evangelicals would wish. The majority of research clearly indicates an attempt to change sexual orientation is a daunting task and a rare occurrence,” he writes.
 
Yet those realities do not trump Scripture’s insistence, Branch argues, that “it is possible for homosexual behavior to be something in which a person once participated in the past, but no longer does so” by virtue of God’s saving and transforming grace.
 
For some with same-sex attraction, following Christ will entail singleness and godly celibacy, he writes. For others, it will entail heterosexual marriage and combatting occasional same-sex temptations while yet others will marry a person of the opposite gender and be freed altogether from same-sex temptations.
 
“Each of these options is consistent with Christian sexual ethics,” he writes.
 
Through every aspect of Christians’ response to homosexuality, Branch argues, “serious debate” must not be “short-circuited by the vacuous claim, ‘I was born this way.’”
 

7/8/2016 11:45:02 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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