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World Vision decision anti-gospel, Moore says

March 25 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The decision of World Vision U.S. to extend hiring to legally married gay couples is no surprise, but empowers darkness and attacks the gospel, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore blogged Monday (March 24).

The Christian hunger relief group’s U.S. board of directors has voted to allow the employment of those engaged in legal homosexual marriages, World Hunger U.S. President Richard Stearns announced in Monday’s Christianity Today. World Vision had notified its staff of the change in a statement, citing a desire for cross-denominational unity.

But the hiring change is a mistake, Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote at his blog russellmoore.com. The change should not be embraced as a show of unity, he wrote.

“This isn’t, as the World Vision statement (incredibly!) puts it, the equivalent of a big tent on baptism, church polity, and so forth,” Moore noted. “At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2,000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.”

russellmoore.com photo
Russell Moore

“We empower darkness when we refuse to warn of judgment,” Moore wrote. “We empower the darkness when we refuse to offer forgiveness through the blood of the cross.”

World Vision is not endorsing same-sex marriage, but has chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on the issue, Stearns said in his statement to World Vision staff. The group will continue to require sexual abstinence among unmarried employees and sexual fidelity within marriage, he said.

“World Vision’s mission is not the same as that of our local churches; nor are we a body of theologians whose responsibility is to render biblical advice and interpretations of theological matters,” Stearns informed his staff.

“We are, as our mission statement so clearly expresses, ‘an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God,’” Stearns stated. “And it is this mission that unites us – Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox, nondenominational, etc. – more than 50 different expressions of the Christian faith represented within [World Vision U.S.] alone.”

Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press in an email interview that the decision reveals World Vision’s true character.

“World Vision’s leaders have revealed what they really believe and where they really stand – and the truth about them is disheartening,” Iorg wrote. “When any Christian organization denies the authority of scripture – no matter their convoluted explanation – they have compromised their integrity and initiated their demise.

“World Vision’s claims they are not making a theological decision or taking a position on these issues is incomprehensible,” Iorg stated. “Every decision by Christian leaders is grounded in theological conviction and every position – including claiming not to take one – amounts to taking a position.”

Moore wrote, “We’re entering an era where we will see who the evangelicals really are, and by that I mean those who believe in the gospel itself, in all of its truth and all of its grace.

“There’s an entire corps of people out there who make their living off of evangelicals but who are wanting to ‘evolve’ on the sexuality issue without alienating their base,” Moore blogged. “I don’t mind people switching sides and standing up for things that they believe in. But just be honest about what you want to do. Don’t say ‘Hath God said?’ [as when Satan tempted Eve in Genesis 3:1] and then tell us you’re doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church.”

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler blogged at albertmohler.com that World Vision’s decision is misleading.

“The worst aspect of the World Vision U.S. policy shift is the fact that it will mislead the world about the reality of sin and the urgent need of salvation,” Mohler wrote. “Willingly recognizing same-sex marriage and validating openly homosexual employees in their homosexuality is a grave and tragic act that confirms sinners in their sin – and that is an act that violates the gospel of Christ.”

World Vision identifies itself as a “Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice,” working in nearly 100 countries.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/ editor.)
3/25/2014 8:46:31 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

ERLC calls for prayer for Hobby Lobby case

March 25 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) religious freedom entity has called for prayer in a U.S. Supreme Court case that promises to provide a landmark decision on church-state relations.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and its president, Russell D. Moore, urged Southern Baptists and others to pray as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments Tuesday (March 25) in a consolidated case involving challenges by two family-owned corporations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate. The justices’ opinion on that rule, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices for their workers, will determine whether Christians and other religious adherents are free to exercise their beliefs in operating their businesses. 

The case involves Hobby Lobby, the nationwide retail chain owned by evangelical Christians, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business owned by pro-life Mennonites. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, who own Conestoga Wood, contend the federal regulation violates their consciences and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.

“This case will set the tone for the next hundred years of church-state jurisprudence in this country,” Moore wrote March 23 at his blog. “This case will tell us whether we’ve bartered away a birthright paid for with our forebears’ blood.”

The federal rule in question – issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the 2010 health-care law – mandates employers pay for coverage of contraceptives, including ones that can induce abortions, for their workers. Objections to the regulation failed to produce either a retraction from HHS or adequate conscience protections requested by religious liberty proponents.

BP photo illustration
The ERLC is using a blue ribbon to promote prayer as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments Tuesday (March 25) in the case involving Hobby Lobby. The high court’s decision is expected to provide a landmark decision on church-state relations.

Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood and about 300 others – some for-profit corporations and some non-profit organizations – combined to file 94 lawsuits against HHS. A major question the Supreme Court will consider is whether owners of for-profit companies can exercise their religion in the conduct of their businesses. They cannot, the Obama administration has argued during the legal challenge.

“The government is telling the Hobby Lobby owners, the Green family, that their free exercise rights aren’t relevant because they run a corporation,” Moore wrote in calling for prayer. The federal government also is telling the Hahns and others “that what’s at stake is just the signing of some papers, the payment of some money,” he said.

“Our government has treated free exercise of religion as though it were a tattered house standing in the way of a government construction of a railroad; there to be bought off or plowed out of the way, in the name of progress.

“The government wants us to sing from their hymn book, ‘Onward, Sexual Revolutionaries,’ but we can’t do that,” Moore wrote. “We love and respect our leaders, but when they set themselves up as overlords of the conscience, we must respectfully dissent.”

In its March 23 post, the ERLC provided the following guide in its “Pray for Hobby Lobby” initiative:
  • God wants people to be free to seek him and to serve him (Acts 17:24-28). Pray for a favorable outcome. The cherished principle of religious freedom should receive the strongest constitutional protection it deserves.
  • God is Lord of the conscience, not government (Acts 5:29). Pray that the justices of the Supreme Court will understand the importance of the separation of the state from the church.
  • God can give understanding to make sound decisions (Prov. 2:6-8). Pray for those who disagree with us, that God would help them understand and respect the consciences of people of faith.
  • God can turn the hearts and minds of the justices to do His will (Prov. 21:1). Pray for the Supreme Court justices, that they would be receptive to the arguments being made passionately before them.
  • God can guide the mind and speech (Exod. 4:11-12). Pray for lead attorney, Paul Clement, who will be arguing on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Ask God to give him clarity and wisdom, for his arguments to be persuasiveness, and for God to give him favor before the justices.”
The ERLC, which signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, desires freedom for all people, not just Christians, Moore said.

“One of the reasons we oppose this sort of incursion into free exercise is that we want neither to be oppressed nor to oppress others,” he wrote. “We do not ask the government to bless our doctrinal convictions, or to impose them on others. We simply ask the government not to set itself up as lord of our consciences.”

Moore’s full post may be read here. The ERLC post may be accessed here.

A divided three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against Conestoga Wood, saying for-profit, secular organizations “cannot engage in religious exercise.” In ruling for Hobby Lobby, however, the 10th Circuit Court in Denver rejected the Obama administration’s argument that protections under RFRA do not extend to for-profit companies. It ruled corporations “can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes” of RFRA, which requires the government to have a compelling interest and to use narrow means to burden a person’s religious exercise.

The HHS regulation requires coverage of such drugs as the “morning-after” pill Plan B, which possesses a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can even act after implantation to end the life of the child

While some conscientious objectors to the HHS rule oppose underwriting all contraceptives, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood protest paying only for abortion-causing drugs. 

Hobby Lobby’s Green family has said it will not comply with the mandate if it loses in court. The arts and crafts retail chain of more than 600 stores could face fines totaling $1.3 million a day. 

The Hahn family, which owns Conestoga Wood, has been living under the mandate since its group health plan was renewed in January 2013. Refusal to abide by the mandate could cost the family an estimated $95,000 a day. Conestoga Wood is a wholesale manufacturer of kitchen cabinet parts.

The 10th Circuit case is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, while the Third Circuit case is Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius. Kathleen Sebelius is the HHS secretary.

The high court is expected to issue a decision before the end of its term in late June or early July.
3/25/2014 12:31:09 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptist Temple remembers couple killed 10 years ago in Iraq

March 25 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

For the Elliott family, a legacy of ministry and missions lives on in their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Larry and Jean Elliott were killed in Mosul, Iraq, 10 years ago. Retired from missionary service in Honduras, the International Mission Board had asked them to use their expertise to help Iraqi people get clean water and hear about Jesus Christ.
“Their legacy, their life, their mission continues to go forth around this world in more places than you or I know about,” said Larry D. Beaver, interim pastor of Baptist Temple Church in Reidsville, during a remembrance service March 16 at the church.
Larry and Jean Elliott, along with Karen Watson and David McDonnall were killed when six terrorists surrounded their vehicle and opened fire. McDonnall’s wife, Carrie, was the only survivor.
The Elliotts were members of Baptist Temple when they answered the call to seminary and international missions. Larry dreamed of going behind the Iron Curtain, but after seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded instead to a chaplain position in Honduras. When Larry and Jean arrived, however, the job had been withdrawn. Instead they spent more than 25 years in Honduras helping get clean wells to different areas as well as teaching English and providing other ministries.

IMB photos
Larry, left, and Jean Elliott were killed March 15, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq.

On March 16, 2014, two of the Elliott’s sons – Scott and Todd, their children and grandchildren gathered at Baptist Temple to remember the sacrifice and ministry of the couple, who had been called out of the church. Daughter, Gina Kim, and her family, could not attend the service.
Scott Elliott spoke during the service. He thanked the church “that started it all off” for the family on behalf of the Elliott’s three children, three children-in-law, 10 grandchildren, one granddaughter-in-law, and two great-grandchildren.
His remarks centered around his parents’ life verse Matthew 6:33: “Seek you first the kingdom of God …
“That was more than a verse that they claimed; that was a verse that they lived,” Scott said, sharing five things that constitute a Kingdom-seeker, which is what his parents were. The thing that made the Elliots Kingdom-seekers was not about them, Scott said.
“It was about their glorious, all-powerful, loving God,” he said. “Only He could craft such extraordinary lives out of a farm boy and a mill worker’s daughter. They were just willing vessels.”
The church showed a video of the McDonnalls and Karen Watson along with photos of the Elliotts at the church and in Honduras.
One of the photos was from a night Larry and Jean shared in January 2004 before they left for Iraq.
Susie Stroud, who has been a Baptist Temple member since before the Elliotts joined, presented a collection of materials to the Elliott brothers and planned to mail one to their sister who could not attend.
Max Furr, a retired missionary who served with the Elliotts in Honduras, based his message on Matthew 21:28: “Father says, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’”
“That’s the basis of our Christian service, said Furr, who lives in Advance and helps with a Hispanic church plant. “We’re children of God.”
Furr said he and his wife heard the call as did Larry and Jean Elliott. The “go” in the verse was “all the authority that Larry and I needed. He said ‘Go.’
He didn’t say ‘If you want to,’ or ‘if you’d like to.’ It was an imperative … and we went.”
Furr said he thought his call was in North Carolina but when he met his future wife, she said she’d been called as a foreign missionary. He thought God would change her mind.
The Furrs had 22 years of “fruitful ministry” in Peru before being assigned to El Paso, Texas, for two years. Jean Elliott attended an associational meeting at First Baptist Church in Reidsville one March when the Furrs shared about their service.
Later the Furrs were assigned to Honduras where they became “instant friends.”
Furr was asked by the family to speak at the graveside services for the Elliotts in 2004.
Both Stroud and Furr shared from the book, Lives Given, Not Taken: 21 Century Southern Baptist Martyrs, by Erich Bridges and Jerry Rankin. The Elliots are two of the missionaries featured in the book.
During their time in Honduras, there were 12 churches, 92 mission points and more than 80 water wells made possible through the Elliott’s ministry.
An email from Jean shortly before her death noted the couple’s happiness on being called to Iraq.
“This is a very special time for us, and God is so REAL,” she wrote. “No matter what happens, we are in His hands, and we know that we are where we should be.”
Furr shared about the disaster recovery efforts after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998. More than 5,000 people died.
Furr and Larry Elliott went to the airport to pick up a shipment when Larry found 10 pallets sitting by themselves. He asked a guard about them and found out they had been there 10 days and were going to be given away or thrown away. The airport was receiving so many shipments because of the hurricane that there was limited space. Without knowing what it was Larry asked one of the guys with them to come help him load it. With 50 cases on each pallet, the shipment was labeled as candied yams.
“I thought, ‘Larry’s lost it,’” Furr said. “Larry, do you know Hondurans don’t eat candied yams. He said they will if they get hungry enough.”
Furr said he wasn’t excited about having to unload the yams but when they opened the boxes, they found two cans of yams among the 500 boxes.
“The rest of it was dry rice, cereal, sugar … exactly what we needed,” he said.
When the Furrs retired, Larry gave Max a can of yams as a parting gift.
“Why did God call Larry and Jean Elliott to Iraq?” Furr asked, indicating it was because of the Elliott’s love and wisdom that they could share with Iraqis.
“We do know their lives and love have blessed thousands; their deaths have inspired and challenged more.”
First Baptist Church in Cary also set aside time during its March 16 morning services to remember the couple. The church’s mission house is named in the Elliott’s honor.
People can still give to “The Larry and Jean Elliott Endowment” through the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, 201 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511. Include the name of the fund in the memo line or a note; account #002329. Funds go to pay for mission work through Baptist Temple Church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Bridges/Rankin book is available through imb.org.)
3/25/2014 12:24:16 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Ice storm spurs N.C. Baptists to action

March 25 2014 by BR staff

Volunteers from a number of North Carolina Baptist churches have responded to the requests for help across the state from an ice storm that struck much of North Carolina in early March.
Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men) have three sites arranged for cleanup activity: Alamance, Davidson and Guilford counties.

Baptist on Mission photo
Volunteers pray with some homeowners who had tree damage on their property after an ice storm. Men and women helped cut trees and clear debris. The Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina’s Mills Home campus was also damaged. There are currently needs for volunteers at BCH as well as through Baptist on Missions (North Carolina Baptist Men).

Since the storm struck March 7 volunteers have not only prepared meals but served these three areas as well as helped the Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina (BCH) in Thomasville.
“The community response has been beyond impressive,” said BCH president Michael C. Blackwell, in a press release. “The help began as soon as people became aware of the damage.”
Food Lion, which has its headquarters in Salisbury, has been a long-time supporter of BCH. Chris McDonald, the store manager of Food Lion’s Cloniger Drive location in Thomasville, presented BCH’s Blake Ragsdale with $3,000 in gift cards. Mills Home staff will use the Food Lion shopping cards to replace the perishable food the campus lost during the four-day power outage.
“Food Lion is always there for our boys and girls. We are so appreciative of what they’ve done to help,” says Ragsdale who serves as BCH’s director of communications.
“Both of Food Lion’s Thomasville stores experienced their own food loss when their power went out. “Their generosity at this time speaks volumes about who they are as an organization.”
The ice weighed so heavily on some trees that they were uprooted. Trees that were toppled took down some power lines on the BCH campus as well as near homes across the state.
During the North Carolina Missions Conference March 21-22, leaders talked about the need for more workers not only for the recovery efforts in North Carolina but for many other requests they have from other states and nations.
For Baptists on Mission, donations designated for Winter Storm 3.7 Disaster Relief can be mailed to: North Carolina Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107. Visit baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief/Winter-Storm-3-7.
BCH has set up an “Ice Storm Disaster Recovery” fund at bchfamily.org/givenow or call (336) 474-1224. 
3/25/2014 12:03:27 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Olympics widens platform for Christian hockey player

March 25 2014 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Gisele “Gigi” Marvin is a forward who helped the USA Women’s Hockey team win an Olympic silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games and a silver in Sochi, Russia. She played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 2005 to 2009. And Marvin is a three-time member of the U.S. Women’s National Team for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Championship (IIHF) who won her fourth International IIHF gold medal in 2013.

Recently, Roman Gabriel III interviewed Marvin about her experiences in Sochi, her love of the game as well as her passions off the rink and her faith.
Q: Gigi, tell us about your most recent Olympic experience in Sochi.
A: It’s truly a blessing to be able to compete with that group because everyone was able to witness that gold medal game. The hearts of my teammates and the coaching staff around us was amazing. We definitely poured everything out that game.

Contributed photo
Gigi Marvin, #19 USA, was a defenseman during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Q: Now that you look back on the last game in Sochi, do you wish you and the team could have done anything differently?

A: I think hindsight is 20/20, and absolutely there may be some little things that could have gone our way. So, obviously as competitors we would have loved to have won the gold. Most important though is resting in the fact that we truly did play with absolutely everything on the line. We did everything in our power to use the gifts that God has given us.

Q: Tell me about some of the passions that you have off of the rink.

A: Well, I work with schools and hang out with a lot of kids. I love kids. My aunt and I own a hockey school for young kids that we have done every single summer for seven years now. And I have a huge passion for speaking about what God has done in my life.
Q: From a faith standpoint, what type of atmosphere surrounded Team USA?
A: God has done such an amazing job. And that was one of the prayers before we left [to go to Sochi]. My heart has grown stronger and I think that’s true for others as well. You know, the point of this life is to grow more like Christ every single day. So training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things so that was something very evident to us. It’s amazing to see growth in those people who’ve never known about Him and choose to follow Him. It has definitely encouraged my walk, and it has encouraged my teammates.
Q: Do you raise your money like everyone else in the Olympics through corporate and individual donations?
A: That is definitely one way. We also get a stipend from the United States Olympic Committee. However, you definitely need to go and be your own advocate and reach out to others and basically put yourself out there in order to finance and facilitate what you have been called to. That’s the path that I’ve been on. It is an interesting spot but I’m very thankful for what I have and what I’ve been blessed with.
Q: So, you grew up in Minnesota, you played for the Gophers in college. Obviously hockey is huge in your area, but how did you first get interested in it and how did you know that you wanted to start?
A: I started when I could walk, so before I was two. I grew up in a hockey town and in a hockey family so it would have been going on whether I liked it or not. Everyone talks about hockey and you pretty much live at the rink. I skate every day and just grow in the gift I’ve been given. I love that the family who first put the skates on me continues to celebrate my growth in it.
Q: Now your dad was the manager of the 1965 USA National Ice Hockey team. What kind of influence did your dad have in terms of you loving hockey?
A: He was the first guy that put the skates on me. He took me to the rink every single day, and he was there to share his experience, knowledge and love of the game. So, yes, it influenced me greatly. You see a lot of parents that see a dream in their child and they say, “Hey, you know what, I’m going to do everything to support you, encourage you and provide for you.” That was my dad.
Q: What is the biggest thing that you’ve taken from your experience on Team USA?
A: The biggest experience is the fact that the Team USA jersey is going to come off at some point, but the Team Jesus Christ will absolutely never come off. My physical training ultimately means nothing compared to my spiritual training if my heart is not right in Christ and truly seeking Him every day.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman’s Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. It’s all about faith, family and sports. Visit his website: soldouttv.com; Facebook page: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect with him on Twitter: romangabriel3rd; email him: soldoutrg3@gmail.com. See more stories.)
3/25/2014 11:48:29 AM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 1 comments

Phil Roberts joins Truett-McConnell faculty

March 25 2014 by Baptist Press

CLEVELAND, Ga. – Truett-McConnell College (TMC) is adding to its faculty Phil Roberts, former president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Roberts led Midwestern, a Southern Baptist seminary in Kansas City, Mo., from 2001-12. He will teach in Truett-McConnell’s new master of arts in theology program beginning this fall.


BP photo
Phil Roberts

Brad Reynolds, TMC’s vice president for academic services, said Roberts and another new faculty member, Mael Disseau, “not only bring with them a vast knowledge base combined with international experience in education, they are committed churchmen whose lives of service to God will enhance their impact upon our students both academically and spiritually.”

Truett-McConnell College, located in Cleveland, Ga., is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Roberts, who holds a Ph.D. from the Free University in Amsterdam, served seven years at the SBC’s North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. He was vice president of the strategic cities strategies group and, earlier, director of the interfaith evangelism team, authoring the 1998 book Mormonism Unmasked. Roberts also has been on the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he earned an M.Div. degree.

Among various places of overseas ministry from 1985-94, Roberts was pastor of the International Baptist Church in Brussels, Belgium.

“Dr. Roberts has a heart for education, missions and evangelism that knows no borders,” said Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell. “Faculty and students alike will benefit from Dr. Roberts’ commitment to and compassion for the mission and ministry of our college.”

In addition to his duties at Truett-McConnell, Roberts will remain as director of international theological education for Global Ministries Fellowship, a Memphis-based organization that ministers internationally through crusade evangelism, theological education, and educational and spiritual ministries to children in India, Africa, Central America and Thailand.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by Norm Miller, director of communications at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga.)
3/25/2014 11:38:03 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

When missions meets ‘glory’ of God

March 24 2014 by BR staff

“The reason we have breath is that we may live for all peoples. There are individuals who live, die and never hear the gospel. This cannot be tolerable for us,” said David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., at the 2014 North Carolina Missions Conference.
Sponsored by Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men), the “For the Glory of His Name” missions event took place March 21-22 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. About 1,600 registered for the event.
“The need is urgent,” Platt said, “to be on the front lines of the battle. Are we going to spend our lives for the accomplishment for the Great Commission or not?”

BR photo by Emily Blake
During a breakout session at the 2014 N.C. Baptist Missions Conference, churches were given opportunities to do various mission projects in the community surrounding Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte. One of the projects available was a block party held in a diverse apartment community populated largely with Burmese immigrants. Here, volunteers help children to make bracelets with beads representing the gospel story.

Founder and president of AnGeL Ministries and daughter of Billy Graham, Anne Graham Lotz spoke on the subject of forgiveness among Christians.
She said, “Forgiveness is an act of worship. If you ask me, the greater the wound forgiven the greater the act of worship.”
In order forgive, Lotz explained, Christians need to bring their wounds to the Lord, choose to forgive, seek reconciliation and then leave the rest to God.
In Matthew 25:31-47, “Jesus is not preaching works-salvation,” said Brian Loritts, lead pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a multicultural church ministering to urban Memphis, Tenn.
Narrating the life of William Wilberforce – English statesman, philanthropist and abolitionist – Loritts said that the main question for young Wilberforce was, ‘How do I reconcile the gospel of freedom with a culture advocating the evils of slavery?’”
Loritts emphasized to the attendees that for “Wilberforce and for us, salvation precedes works. Your redemption in Christ will lead to fruitful action. And that fruit is a change in lifestyle that is in proportion to the Holy Spirit in your life.”
The conference also held a hands-on mission breakout session where attendees could serve the neighborhoods and people of Charlotte. Opportunities included a mobile dentistry clinic, a block party, prayer walking and a children’s ministry.
Cabin Missionary Baptist Church in Duplin County had many participants at the apartment ministry.
“We’re here trying to share the gospel,” said Dennis Kennedy, a member of the church. Referring to a man playing corn hole with him he said, “I can’t speak [the language of] this fellow, but he seems happy about the game. I’m glad to get his mind off the stress of life for a while.”
Kennedy hoped to later show him a gospel presentation video in Burmese on his friend’s iPhone.
E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and visiting distinguished professor at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon, Leonard Sweet said that the average American views nearly 3,000 advertisements daily.
Sweet warned that these can become “sermons” the individual begins aligning his or her life to.
Identity requires narrative, said Sweet, and America is shaping our identities with a narrative contrary to true story of scripture. One particular place where identity is shaped is around the dinner table.
“The whole ministry of Jesus is one big table,” Sweet said. “If you are reading the Gospels and not getting hungry, you’re not reading them correctly. Jesus ate good food with evil people.
“The first command from God’s mouth in the Bible is ‘Eat freely’ and the last command is, ‘Drink freely.’ Everything in between is a table. Scripture is not to be a snack or smorgasbord. It is a meal and Jesus is served up on this platter.”
Platt encouraged the attendees to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel. He asked, “What if God really wants the entire world to hear His gospel? We have the Holy Spirit residing within us and because of this, we should be intentional about using the power of the Spirit to make disciples all over the world.”
The 2015 conference will be at April 10-11 at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
There is a DVD available for each of the three sessions at a cost of $5 per DVD. The resource includes only the speakers. Visit baptistsonmission.org for more information or contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599, or NC Baptist Men/Baptists On Mission, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.
3/24/2014 3:10:49 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Wilmington association hosts T4T training

March 24 2014 by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications

When Jeff Sundell returned to the United States after serving overseas for more than a decade with the International Mission Board, he recognized a need for renewed disciple-making efforts among American churches. 
“It’s so clear that disciple-making is just missing in many of our churches,” Sundell said.
Feeling a burden to renew a passion for disciple-making in the U.S., Sundell began training believers in his local church in an evangelism and discipleship strategy originally designed for the foreign mission field known as T4T (“Training for Trainers”).
“T4T is evangelism and discipleship connected. These two were always connected with Jesus,” Sundell said. “We must get back to connecting evangelism and discipleship.”
Soon after implementing the training in his local church, a number of people came to faith in Christ and soon neighboring churches asked to receive training. From there he began hosting T4T training in cities across North Carolina. Now with the help of additional partners, he and his team are leading T4T movements in 27 cities throughout the U.S.
He said God is moving in each of these cities in ways he never imagined. “Every day we receive emails from people we have trained who tell us about the new people they are reaching for Christ,” Sundell said. “Every day people are coming to faith in Christ.”
Sundell spoke during a T4T training event held March 4-5 in Wilmington. The event was sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and hosted by the Wilmington Baptist Association. During the training, pastors and lay leaders learned the basics of T4T, including how to share the gospel and how to train and disciple new believers. 
The overall goal of T4T is to train disciples of Jesus Christ to make disciples, who in turn make disciples.
“The guiding word is reproducing,” Sundell said. “We want to make disciples who reproduce themselves.”
Lester Evans, BSC team leader for Associational Partnerships, said T4T fits closely with the strategy of the BSC, which emphasizes reaching the state’s 5.8 million lost people through disciple-making.  
“T4T is a method that can be used to develop and mobilize every believer to become a multiplying disciple of Jesus Christ,” Evans said. “This is where the Great Commission happens.”

Evangelism and Discipleship

T4T begins with a focus on evangelism. The training prepares Christians to share their testimony and the gospel with nonbelievers in natural conversations and equips them to ask for a response to the gospel during the course of the conversation. 
Sundell said combining the gospel with personal testimonies help people understand God’s grace and their need for forgiveness of sin. “Our testimony is not the power unto salvation, the gospel is the power unto salvation,” he said. “But our stories are experiences that others can relate to.”
Evangelism is an important part of the process, but Sundell said the key to T4T’s success is its emphasis on discipleship. Within 48 hours of coming to faith in Christ, every new believer is taught a simple gospel presentation, but they are also placed in a one-on-one discipleship relationship with a mature believer for a minimum of nine months.
“When people come to Christ, we don’t want to stop there,” Sundell said. “We don’t want to birth them and walk away.”
The end-goal for T4T is to connect new believers to the church, a process that is not always easy, Sundell said.
“New believers sometimes find it difficult to navigate the church,” he said. “Disciple them through that. Most of the time you can work new believers through a lot of those things if you just invest in them.”
Although T4T was originally designed to reach unreached people groups on the foreign mission field, it has found success in the U.S. Sundell said that is not surprising, given the rise of secularization combined with the increasing number of unreached people groups migrating to the U.S. in recent decades.
“The bottom line is that the ends of the earth have come to our doorsteps,” he said. “We’ve got to proclaim the gospel to them. We have to love them and tell them about Jesus.”
Sundell said that will only occur when churches rediscover their mandate to make disciples of all people.
“The gospel is clear. We have to go make disciples,” he said. “We have to get to where the church house is a training center to equip people to fulfill the Great Commission.”
For more information about T4T in the United States, visit www.t4tusa.com. For more information about the Convention’s five-year strategy, visit www.ncbaptist.og/strategy
3/24/2014 3:01:20 PM by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Handbell festivals ring in good cheer, better choirs

March 24 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Gathering handbell choirs together may seem odd to an outside observer.
But choir directors across North Carolina find the annual youth and East/West adult handbell festivals a great place to learn better techniques and to practice and learn songs together.
“Our students look forward to this event every year,” said Dawn Tatum, youth handbell choir director for First Baptist Church in Huntersville. “It’s a highlight of the year’s experience. Festival helps our individual groups be a part of the bigger picture of music ministry. It encourages them to achieve a higher level of excellence in their ringing skills, while affirming their own abilities.”
Tatum said the youth handbell choir has been attending the annual festival, which is sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), since 2001.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Seventeen handbell choirs took part in the East Adult Handbell Festival Feb. 28-March 1 at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington.

Comprised of students from grades seven through 12, Tatum said the festival helps the youth advance their music reading and helps “them become great ‘appreciators’ of music. These kids also gain poise and presence, and confidence that transfers to all areas of life.”
Both the Youth Handbell Festival and the East and West Adult Handbell festivals met in February. Planning the festivals takes time and organization said Jim Davidson, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Hickory. Davidson is the handbell event coordinator for the BSC.
For the youth festival, Davidson said seven choirs totaling 85 people (including drivers and directors) attended this year’s festival at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro. The adult choirs are divided most years with one gathering in the East and one in the West. The East festival attracted 17 choirs totaling about 180 people at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington. The West festival is usually bigger. Its location was at the LeGrand Center in Shelby. Around 400 ringers from 34 choirs participated.
“Each clinician brings some new insights into music and into handbell ringing,” Davidson said.
The festivals help ringers with technique and provide fellowship. If churches have a handbell choir there is usually only one so they never have the chance to hear another choir unless they come to the festival.
“Having the chance to ring under the direction of a widely known director is a privilege and a pleasure,” Tatum said. “It’s exciting and exhilarating to ring alongside so many other choirs. Festival truly unites our ringers through a specific musical art.”
Tatum considers handbells a team sport because it requires elements of team play and commitment to the group. She also believes involvement in handbell choir “enhances the students’ spiritual development through the teaching of scripture, praise and prayer.” 
Davidson has a tough job of mapping out where choirs are located in the festival space. Since the choirs bring their own equipment, Davidson has to figure table lengths appropriate for each choir. Each festival has a set list of music which helps build the church’s repertoire for its playing schedule at its respective church.
Every five years, Davidson said the BSC hosts PraisRing, which joins East/West festivals together. Next year’s PraisRing is April 17-18 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. At least 60 choirs are expected to attend. Directors will be Tim Waugh and Ed Tompkins from The Charlotte Bronze. The festival is for TINS (2-3 octave choirs) and COPPERS (4-5 octave choirs). PraisRing also offers breakout sessions teaching anything from handbell repair to various types of techniques like ringing four bells in hand.
Registration will open July 2014 for the adult festival.
The 2015 Youth Handbell Festival is scheduled Feb. 27-28 at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro. Registration will open later this year.
For more information, contact Sherry Thompson at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5624, or sthompson@ncbaptist.org.
3/24/2014 2:48:38 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Conference equips parents, teens to work together

March 24 2014 by Marty Simpkins, BSC Communications

Life as a teenager can be full of uncertainty, transition, peer pressure and more, and parents have trouble traversing those angst-ridden years.
The Tag! Parents and Teenagers Together conference March 1 at First Baptist Church in Garner was meant to help parents and teenagers learn how to build solid relationships with each other.
“We all were teenagers at one time and we all made mistakes,” said Merrie Johnson, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship. “As our family grows, we become the parent of a teenager, trying to instill in them our number-one goal, which is to have an everlasting relationship with Jesus Christ and ... following after Him.”
The conference, sponsored by the convention, involved teens and parents worshipping the Lord, playing games and sharing personal experiences together.
Following an introductory session, teens participated in gender-specific breakout sessions while Johnson teaches parents how to prepare their sons and daughters for the difficulties of life ahead.
The conference schedule provides opportunities for parents and teenagers to enjoy lunch together and to spend time during the afternoon engaged in activities revolving around building trust, learning to listen to one another and finding ways to do more fun things together.
Teaching from Joshua 1:9, Johnson used this passage to illustrate the fact that teenagers go through a period of transition that is comparable to the Israelites’ transition from being led by Moses to being led by Joshua.
“I want [parents and teens] to make a commitment to do one thing by the end of this session, and that’s to ask themselves, ‘What’s the one thing that they want to change in their family?’” Johnson said. “Our emphasis is to bring the parents and teenagers together, mainly because teenagers just stop talking. We’ve got to be a voice that is as loud as what the world is telling them,” she said. “Somewhere along the way, we think that they don’t want us around anymore, but they still have to have guidelines and to have someone fighting for them in the things that they are going through.”
The purpose of the “Tag! You’re It” theme is to equip Christian students to make their lives count and to stand up for what they believe. Participants are trained in a form of apologetics specifically tailored to the young audience at this conference.
The results from the North Carolina Baptist Youth Ministry Survey in 2011 revealed that out of 4,281 students who completed the 83-question survey, 3,744 failed the biblical literacy portion.
“This was the ‘cream of the crop’ of students from N.C. Baptist churches: involved in youth ministry that were attending youth camp,” Johnson said.
She admitted that she knew the scores would be low, but she never anticipated more than 87 percent failing in what they know about God’s Word. The survey results also revealed that this generation is neither being mentored nor getting involved in discipleship groups.
The Tag! conferences help combat this by training students how to pray, how to share the gospel, how to defend what they believe and how to be leaders.     
The “Tag! You’re It” theme was developed upon the conviction that the BSC should assist churches in making disciples among teenagers. Scripture instructs parents to engage in disciple-making with their children and to discover how to grow as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ together.
For more information on upcoming BeDoTell events and future “Tag!” conferences, contact Merrie Johnson at (919) 459-5566 or email tag@ncbaptist.org. Additional information may also be found by visiting www.bedotell.com.
3/24/2014 2:30:47 PM by Marty Simpkins, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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