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News

Syrian Christians stay behind to help

October 10 2014 by August Miller, BGR/Baptist Press

With food and jobs scarce, and their savings depleted, Syrian Christians and their neighbors are struggling to provide for their families.
 
Despite their own trauma, many believers are choosing to stay in their beleaguered communities and reach out in love amid their neighbors’ pain.
 
Christians in Syria have been able to distribute food with the help of Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist-related relief organization. Families also are receiving blankets and medical care. Children who have been out of school for years once again are being educated.
 
A relief worker quotes 2 Corinthians 1:4 to a room full of Syrian believers: “He [God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
 
“We must share in this comfort, not just leave it to God,” the worker says. “The body [of Christ] needs to share in the comfort of those who are hurting.”

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BGR photo
Instead of fleeing their country, Many Syrian Christians are staying in their beleaguered communities to reach out in love to those around them.

 

As the war continues, more and more Syrians are affected each day by the violence and economic struggle. Fighting in their hometowns has forced many people to relocate to other cities, leaving behind their homes and their work.
 
Without work, many IDPs (internally displaced persons) struggle to provide for their families. With a lack of income and diminishing savings, financial issues loom, leaving many people unable to provide for their family’s basic needs – food, medicine, housing, electricity and gas for cooking and heat.
 
One Syrian Christian, Joy*, said God called her to help the children she saw on the street outside her window.
 
Many Syrian children have been without education since the beginning of the war in 2011. Traveling to school is dangerous, and many school buildings have been destroyed, turned into hospitals or taken over by a militia. After three years, some students have forgotten basic knowledge learned in their schooling, such as reading, simple math or writing skills.
 
Joy is working to provide hope to these children, believing that her ministry presents the love of God in practical ways. She wants every person to know “You are not alone. God has given you life.”
 
“We want to show them that we are always available for them,” Joy says. “We are standing with them.”
 
Even though more and more refugees are fleeing the country, the majority of Syrians have chosen to stay within the country and face an unknown future.
 
Repeated bombings, however, force many families to flee to safer areas in the country, resulting in an influx of desperate people looking for work and shelter.
 
Abed*, a Syrian Christian, believes God’s purpose for him is to stay in his hometown and share the love of Christ with those in need.
 
“As the crisis continues, the situation of the IDPs is getting worse and worse,” Abed says. In the beginning of the war, many people who needed money came with gold or items to sell. But now people who come have no belongings.
 
“They are ... entering into a real danger zone because they are spending everything they have and they are running out of money,” Abed says. “The Lord has helped me so far to find resources ... but it is going beyond what I can manage.”
 
Through resources provided by BGR, Abed helps people in need. With so many displaced people in town, work is hard to come by. Some are able to do small jobs, but Abed encounters many families who have problems affording rent.
 
Like other Christians in Syria, Abed feels called to help his neighbors survive. The burden is at times difficult to bear.
 
“Daily I try to steel myself and be strong as a man when I am out helping people,” Abed says. “But when I am alone, I cry like a baby. It’s difficult.
 
“But my heart is strong,” he adds. “The Lord is righteous, and I know He has a way that we must walk in.”
 
BGR asks for prayer for Christians in Syria that they will find comfort for their own hurts and that God will strengthen them to love their neighbors and point to His unfading hope.
 
For prayer resources, volunteer opportunities or to donate click here.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - August Miller is an international correspondent for BGR.)
 

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10/10/2014 11:42:12 AM by August Miller, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Moldovan university trains students to face persecution

October 10 2014 by Nicole Lee, IMB

CHISINAU, Moldova – As Layla* speaks she cradles her left hand, damaged beyond repair in multiple beatings. Her mother’s violent response to Layla’s conversion from Islam to Christianity sent her to the hospital many times and eventually led her to leave her Central Asian country and seek asylum in Moldova.

“The last years I was hiding from my acquaintances and friends and relatives,” Layla said. “Then I came here as a refugee, but in a year I have to return home.”

Layla is fearful but trusting God. “I am a little bit afraid, but if the Most High wants it that way, then that is what I need to do.”

She came to Moldova as a full-time student at an evangelical university.

“The vision we received from God was to train former Muslims – to have nationals [in Central Asia] developing Christianity among their own people,” said Caleb,* vice president of the school.

This connection to the Muslim world is a natural one. Central Asian and European countries were brought together under the Russian language during the Soviet era. This now provides a bridge for the gospel.


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IMB photo
Moldovan university trains Central Asian students to reach their people in the face of persecution.

“Russian is our second language, and all of these post-Soviet countries in Central Asia have the Russian language too,” Caleb said. “So we thought, ‘We have a language. We don’t need a visa for travel. We need to go and see.’”

And so they did. They launched their mission to Central Asia in 1997 and found a thriving underground church that lacked training.

“Every year we have a group of 30 people here who are studying at three different programs: pastoral theology, mission work with a specific Muslim focus, and social work based on Christian theology,” Caleb said.

The school not only brings students to Moldova, but it also sends professors to five former Soviet republics – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – to teach in satellite schools they have established amid the underground church.

“Fourteen faculty are going every year to teach in four underground schools that we have established,” Caleb said. “We are sending them out two by two for protection.”
 

Planning for Persecution

The strategy of the university and the testimony of students reflect the fact that returning to Central Asia is a dangerous prospect. As converted Muslims, these students not only face the possibility of physical violence and death, but they also face the obstacle of how to survive day by day and provide for their families. But despite the obstacles, these men and women are passionate about taking the gospel to their people.

“My heart mostly burns for the village where I grew up,” said David,* a young married student. “There are already eight people who have come to Christ, and they need someone to feed them and care for them so they can grow.”

David said studying abroad focuses more unwanted attention on him and his family.

“Because we are studying here, if [our home] government finds out that we are here, it’s going to be even more difficult for us. … But if God’s with us, we can do anything,” he said.

Even though David and his wife will be university graduates, they face a life of low-paying jobs, barely earning enough to support themselves while they do the bigger task of sharing Christ. It is important for these students to be able to support themselves so they are not criticized by the Muslim community and are not a burden to the small existing church.

Caleb has seen this need and is working to expand the university’s ministry beyond training pastors in community development. “They will face persecution, and it will also be very difficult for them to find jobs, so they need to create jobs,” he said.

In the past, they have helped students begin businesses in fruit drying, making peanut butter, beekeeping, cattle farming and small agricultural projects. Such good business models help open doors with city officials.

“We are asking [the students] to think creatively – what they can do, what is working for them,” Caleb said. “In this way we try to build this Christian community in the Muslim context.”
 

Carl and Sherri

With this in mind, Carl* and Sherri,* Christian workers in Moldova, have opened their home and tried to help students plan for their future. They have a weekly home group for fellowship and prayer, and Sherri teaches a baking class once a week, demonstrating kitchen skills and more complicated tasks like making wedding cakes.

Layla is one of Sherri’s cooking students. Her vision is to return home and work with women. Her newfound skills will give her an open door.

Elisabeth,* another cooking class student also sees these skills as important.

“I wanted to know more about baking because that is just natural for a woman in my culture,” she said.
Elisabeth and two other students are considering opening a café when they return home.

“The idea would be to [employ] a group of believers and work with them, and then eventually bring in unbelievers to teach them and share the gospel,” she said.

Carl and Sherri recognize the strategic advantage the students in Moldova have in taking the gospel to the nations.

“There is tremendous potential for them to go out as missionaries,” Carl said. “Moldova is unique in that people speak Russian and Romanian, giving them a background in Latin and Slavic languages so they can go both East and West.”

Moldovan church leaders have recognized this unique position and have a thriving vision for missions.
Alongside them, Carl and Sherri have a deep love for the Central Asian students and have a burden to help them prepare for ministry and life in the Muslim context.

“The average American can’t even remotely imagine what it’s like to live in that persecution and then try to minister and share the gospel in that type of environment. Knowing that the police could come at any time, knowing that family members are going to be angry, knowing they could lose everything at any moment. It’s amazing to see the calm confidence they have in preparing to go back and serve in those places,” Carl said.

*Name changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE - Nicole Lee is a writer for IMB based in Europe.)

10/10/2014 11:26:12 AM by Nicole Lee, IMB | with 0 comments



Hillsong big winner at 45th Dove Awards

October 9 2014 by Baptist Press staff

Hillsong UNITED, a worship band at Australia’s Hillsong Church, was the big winner at the Gospel Music Association’s (GMA) 45th annual Dove Awards Oct. 7.
 
The band was named Artist of the Year and their song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” received awards for Song of the Year, Contemporary Christian Performance of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year and Worship Song of the Year. The song has been at or near the top of the Christian charts for more than a year.
 
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Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Dove Awards
JD of Hillsong UNITED accepts one of the five trophies the group received during the 45th annual Dove Awards. The band was named Artist of the Year, and their song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” was voted Song of the Year.

Switchfoot received awards for Rock/Contemporary Song of the Year and Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year, and Skillet took home Doves for Rock Song of the Year and Rock Album of the Year. Worship artist Chris Tomlin was named Songwriter of the Year and popular independent artist Ellie Holcomb was named New Artist of the Year.
 
For the second year in a row, the awards were held at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena in Nashville. The show, featuring performances by Mercy Me, Natalie Grant, For King & Country, Karen Peck & New River, Mandisa and many others, was recorded and will be broadcast worldwide Sunday, Oct. 12, on TBN.
 
Hosted by Mercy Me front man Bart Millard and Billboard chart topper Lecrae, the show opened with a bang as Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait dropped from the ceiling in the center of the arena singing the band’s hit “God’s Not Dead.” The movie of the same name, in which the song is featured, received the award for Inspirational Film of the Year.
 
In a surprise presentation, Mercy Me was recognized for the certified double platinum status of their song “I Can Only Imagine.” It is the first gospel song ever to reach 2 million digital downloads.
 
Hillsong UNITED band member Jonathan Douglass (known as JD) made several trips to the microphone to accept each of the band’s awards.
 
“We started writing songs for our high school friends in our suburbs,” Douglass said, according to AP, “songs that were our expressions to glorify Jesus.”
 
Hillsong Church also received the GMA’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award for its 20-year contribution to church music and the gospel music industry. The Sydney megachurch was founded in 1983 and has grown to include campuses across Australia and on several continents. Recordings produced by the church’s various praise bands have sold millions of copies, and many of the church’s original songs have become staples in churches around the world such as “Shout to the Lord,” “The Power of Your Love,” “Mighty to Save” and “Oceans,” to name just a few.
 
Check local listings for the show’s broadcast time in your area. For a complete list of winners, go to doveawards.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Compiled by Laura Erlanson, Baptist Press operations coordinator.)
10/9/2014 11:39:30 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



U.S. Ebola patient dies in Dallas hospital

October 9 2014 by Baptist Press Staff

The first person diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil died on Oct. 8. Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, died at 7:51 a.m. CDT, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital reported.
 
Duncan contracted the virus in Monrovia, Liberia, where he lived, days before flying to Dallas and developing signs of the disease. About 48 people he had contact with during his brief fatal illness in Dallas are being closely monitored, some under quarantine, according to news reports.
 
A second patient who contracted the virus in Liberia, U.S. journalist Ashoka Mukpo, has been receiving treatment since Oct. 6 at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha as the virus continues to spread beyond West Africa where the current epidemic originated.
 
“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 a.m.,” Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said in a press release on its website. “Mr. Duncan succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola. He fought courageously in this battle.
 
“Our professionals, the doctors and nurses in the unit, as well as the entire Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas community, are also grieving his passing,” the hospital said. “We have offered the family our support and condolences at this difficult time.”
 
Baptists in the U.S. and West Africa have launched initiatives to help deter the spread of the virus and minister to those in need.
 
Southern Baptists are responding through an education campaign in Togo, West Africa, ahead of any reported cases there, according to Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist-related relief organization.
 
The Baptist Convention of Togo intends to distribute 15,000 Ebola brochures utilizing local Baptist associations and pastors to get the information to church members. Outreach will include televised public service announcements nationwide, and local evangelists will distribute pamphlets to outlying villages, BGR told Baptist Press.
 
Baptists in Texas are preparing to send food and medical supplies to Liberia and Sierra Leone, two countries hit hardest by the epidemic. Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery is sending two 40-foot containers filled with a half-million prepackaged meals of rice and soy, the Baptist General Convention of Texas reported. Texas Baptists have the support of a $20,000 grant from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and food supplies donated by Convoy of Hope in Springfield, Mo.
 
The Baptist ministry Restore Hope, meanwhile, has received $15,000 from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering to send supplies to Sierra Leone. The grant will provide food supplies to the Restore Hope center, Agape Academy and Mile 91 Baptist Church, all in Sierra Leone, where Restore Hope has 25 missionary personnel, Texas Baptists reported.
 
Little has been reported about Duncan’s life in Liberia, other than reports that he likely contracted the virus while helping a pregnant neighbor who was sick and vomiting. Liberian government officials had planned to prosecute him for traveling to the U.S. without disclosing on travel documents his contact with an Ebola patient, but some news reports question whether Duncan knew the cause of the woman’s illness.
 
Duncan was visiting a friend, son and other relatives in Dallas, according to news reports. At least five people who shared an apartment with him during his visit have been quarantined.
 
Duncan had been in isolation at the hospital since Sept. 28 and had been receiving the experimental antiviral drug brincidofovir, which received emergency approval from the FDA for Duncan’s treatment. Mukpo is receiving the same drug, along with blood donated by Kent Brantly, a medical missionary who recovered from Ebola.
 
Brantly had received another experimental treatment which is currently unavailable, its limited supply depleted, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Brantly and Mukpo are among five Americans diagnosed with Ebola in Africa who received treatment in the U.S.A World Health Organization health worker arrived Sept. 9 in Atlanta for treatment and two others, Nancy Writebol and Rick Sacra have made full recoveries. The WHO worker’s condition has not been updated.
 
A Baptist woman living in Nashville has lost six family members to Ebola in Liberia, she told Baptist Press Oct. 2. Juanita Logan, a 55-year-old member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, emigrated to the U.S. from Liberia in 1993.
 
“It’s a bad, ugly virus,” Logan has said.
 
The virus has killed more than 3,400 in West Africa, according to the CDC, and if unabated, could infect up to 1.4 million people by January 2015.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)

10/9/2014 11:30:53 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments



Church mourns youth pastor, wife & sons

October 9 2014 by Whitney Jones & Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press

The funeral of a youth pastor, his wife and two teenage sons was "the hardest thing I have ever done as the pastor of this church," Justin Mason of Rosebower Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., said Oct. 8
 
Michael Cruce, a Kentucky youth pastor, and his wife Monica and sons Joshua, 17, and Caleb, 14, were killed Oct. 3 in a six-car pileup.
 
Michael Cruce, the church's youth pastor for more than 10 years, along with his wife Monica and teenage sons Joshua and Caleb were killed Oct. 3 in a six-car pileup near Nashville while traveling to Gatlinburg for a family getaway.
 
"The church and the youth group are standing on their faith," Mason said prior to the funeral. "This is what Mike and Monica had taught them."
 
Mason said Cruce now is "praising the Lord in heaven. Here he used to always use the word, 'awesome.' He would say, 'We serve an awesome God.' No doubt he is saying that now."
 
Cruce also served as associate pastor, preaching as a substitute for Mason. Church spokesperson and deacon Chris Skates said Cruce often was one of the first at the hospital if a church member was ill or injured and, after an ice storm in 2009, for example, he and his sons cleared tree limbs from people's yards. Cruce also was pursuing a master of divinity degree through Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

 
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BP Photo
Michael Cruce, a Kentucky youth pastor, and his wife Monica and sons Joshua, 17, and Caleb, 14, were killed Oct. 3 in a six-car pileup.

But it wasn't just the youth pastor who was vital to the church. His wife led the girls in the youth group, and the whole family went on mission trips including one to Haiti.
 
"When you pull that away, four integral people," Skates said, "there's just going to be a huge hole in a church our size."
 
Mason, in his funeral message to the grieving congregation, said Cruce "was one of those people that made you a better person."
 
"This family served God with a passion – not just to be good before Him. They pointed you to Jesus," Mason said. Rosebower Baptist's former pastor, Kenneth Puckett, also officiated at the service.
 
The youth group has about 20 regular attendees at the church that draws about 250 Sunday worshipers in Paducah, a city in western Kentucky.
 
Raegan Archer, 15, said the group's small size makes it feel like a family – one that is now mourning a huge loss. She said she was shocked when she first heard of the family's passing, but the youth are coming together to mourn and heal.
 
Archer said Monica Cruce was especially helpful in her development as a Christian. She made girls in the youth ministry feel at home and "spent a lot of time listening to us talk about nonsense."
 
"I might have been a Christian without knowing them," Archer said, "but I don't think I'd be as devoted and caring and as much of a servant as I am. They just really taught being a servant more than anything and caring about others before ourselves."
 
Parker Wooley, one of the teens at the funeral, said of the Cruces, both 43: "He touched so many lives. Monica was like a second mother." Wooley said her life "would have been very different without them."
 
Shelby Webb, another youth group member, said Cruce "always messaged us [through social media]. He would send us notes nearly every day including TAWGs [Time Alone With God devotionals]. Monica largely ministered to us behind the scenes."
 
Skates' son Nathan, a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Missouri who was active in the youth group and close friends with Cruce and his sons, spoke of his memories of the two Cruce boys – Caleb climbing in his lap as a little boy, Joshua accidentally putting a hole in a church wall while playing ping pong.
 
"I always thought it was cool that out of my group of my friends, my youth pastor and his sons were some of my very best friends," the younger Skates said, "and they really were like brothers. ... It was just great to be around them as much as I got a chance to be."
 
Skates added that Cruce "was so passionate about the Gospel and teaching youth about the Bible. If he doesn't get to teach for a week or so it drives him crazy."
 
Chris Skates said the church will have to heal before starting a search for a new youth pastor.
 
"We don't know for sure how we're going to handle it. We're not in an emotional place that we can do a pastor search anytime soon," Skates said. "So we're probably going [to] do just something with interim folks temporarily until we have a chance to get our head around what our long-term plan is."
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, said, "Our hearts go out to their extended family and to their church family where so many are grieving the loss of this beautiful family."
 
In a seminary news release, Mohler also said, "[W]e thank God for the life and witness of Michael Cruce and his family. May his example and the testimony of this family now together with Jesus be an encouragement and a sober reminder of the fact that life is short and every day is precious. We also pray that the witness of this family will bring others to faith in Christ, even in death."
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Whitney Jones is a writer for National Public Radio's affiliate station at Murray State University in Murray, Ky.; Stephen Douglas Wilson is a college professor there.)

10/9/2014 11:17:35 AM by Whitney Jones & Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



CP aids Arab, Ala. Church’s global focus

October 9 2014 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

The small town of Arab, Ala. has no connection to the 22 nations of the Arab League, other than the missionary interests of the pastor of Gilliam Springs Baptist Church located there.
 
Pastor Jamey Pruett and his wife Ashleigh served one tour as missionaries to the Middle East through the International Mission Board before moving to Arab three years ago.
 
“I have a sensitivity to the Middle East,” Pruett said. “I learned [while serving there] that Arabs in general are beautiful people and they have as much right to hear the gospel as anyone, and I learned Jesus died for Muslims as well.”
 
Pruett is focused on bringing people to Christ wherever they may be found, and the Cooperative Program (CP) allows him to extend the reach of the church beyond its northern Alabama hometown of about 8,000 people. The church gives 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to the CP.

 
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Photo from Gilliam Springs Church
A Vacation Bible School rally sponsored by Gilliam Springs Baptist Church engages the church in community outreach.

“The Cooperative Program is a wonderful tool Southern Baptists have for funding missions and ministry,” Pruett said. “We could be spending that money [elsewhere] but we give it through CP because of what it accomplishes. It seems as though the Lord has us focused much more outward than inward. We have chosen to invest our money in missions.”
 
The church ministers locally and globally, teaching its children to do the same, said children’s minister Theresa Mayo, who coordinates the children’s outreach with the work of youth and missions minister Will Harbison.
 
“The strategy is to teach them they can be missionaries right now,” Mayo said. “Our children need to learn they can be on mission here now with their friends, and when they get bigger, they can go out like the youth do now.”
 
Because the children are trained to invite their friends, vacation Bible school regularly draws more people than the 500 typical of Sunday worship. A three-night VBS stretching out over three weeks at the Amber Woods Apartments grew out of the VBS at the church, Mayo said.
 
“We fed the children and their parents, and about 75 to 100 of our people went, so there was a lot of interaction,” Mayo continued. “Adults could do the crafts, and they were in the large group sessions. It was basically a ministry to anyone who wanted to come outside their door and be a part.”
 
Building relationships with the apartment residents and management will lead in God’s timing to evangelistic opportunities, Pruett said.
 
Other youth outreaches include a feeding ministry to disadvantaged school students. Each Friday of the past four years, the church has provided 150 students with backpacks stuffed with food for the weekend. Also locally, the church has operated jail ministries for male and female prisoners, and has for five years led Upward Basketball and Upward Cheerleading for youth.
 
Six times a year, Gilliam Springs members drive three hours east of town to minister through Reach the Nations Church in Clarkston, Ga., where 50 languages are spoken within one square mile. There, Gilliam Springs participates in block parties, backyard Bible clubs, home visits and other outreaches.
 
“This gives our people a good chance to step into other people’s culture for the moment, to love on them and share the gospel with them,” Pruett said. “It’s our international mission trip that doesn’t take us overseas.”
 
Elsewhere across the United States, Gilliam Springs is helping with a church plant in Franklin, Tenn., as many as three church plants in the Metro Baptist Association of New York; and a church plant in Kemmerer, Wyo.
 
“[We’re] being faithful to the Great Commission,” Pruett said. “I think that’s the purpose of the church, to bring people to Christ.”
 
Internationally, Gilliam Springs is in the third of a five-year commitment to a church plant in Sao Simao, Brazil and in the second year of ministry in Jacmal, Haiti. Gilliam Springs is starting a partnership with a missionary in Germany and exploring options in Africa and Southeast Asia, Pruett said.
 
Pivotal to Gilliam Springs’ outreach is the church’s annual Engage Missions Conference which “has really helped our church catch a vision for missions, local and global,” Pruett said. “[The conference] was our attempt to increase effectiveness; it put a better face on what missions is.”
 
As a result, Gilliam Springs gave more than $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions last year, and for the last two years has been among the top 200 givers to Lottie Moon in Alabama.
 
“When I came here, I sensed our folks had been a sleeping giant for some time,” Pruett said. “We went places, we did things, but there was no intentionality, no strategy. With Engage, we’re just trying to bring focus to the Great Commission.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

10/9/2014 10:31:17 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



New SBC pastor care line helps pastors in crisis

October 8 2014 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Southern Baptist pastors struggling through personal or professional crisis now have a confidential place to turn, thanks to a new partnership between the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Focus on the Family.
 
The care line launched Oct. 1 dedicated exclusively to Southern Baptist pastors, chaplains and missionaries by calling 844-PASTOR1. Calls are answered by Focus on the Family’s Family Help Center and remain completely confidential. No information about the calls—including the name of the pastor or the church or the nature of the call—will be provided to NAMB.
 
“The North American Mission Board cares for pastors, and we want to be a part of the compassion of Christ for them and their families,” said Michael Lewis (@pastor4pastors), NAMB’s executive director of pastoral care and development.
 
Lewis says the phone line is another way NAMB is attempting to resource and support pastors—along with marital and family help, providing pastor appreciation resources and initiating Pastors-in-Covenant groups, among other efforts.

PastorHotline10-08-14.jpg
 

NAMB partnered with Focus on the Family in part because the ministry has more than two decades of experience hosting a pastors-in-crisis care line. Focus began the pastor care line ministry in 1992 under the leadership of H.B. London.
 
“Focus on the Family recognizes the sacrifices and hard work of Southern Baptist pastors,” said Jim Daly (@dalyfocus), president of Focus on the Family. “Many of them give up their own time to be there for their flock – giving up holidays to visit with sick people at the hospital, counseling couples through the tough times in their marriages and helping their congregants pray through milestone decisions.
 
“This commitment not only takes time, but it also takes its toll on pastors – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Because they have always been there for others, it’s our privilege to be there for them. Our licensed counselors are eager to provide an ear and biblically-based counsel that will help and give hope,” said Daly.
 
Jared Pingleton, director of the counseling team for Focus on the Family, says pastors call the care line for a variety of personal and professional reasons, such as family problems, emotional issues and leadership crises – any issue for which a pastor needs safe, biblically-informed counsel.
 
The phone line is available weekdays between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern Time. The agent answering the call will listen to and pray for the pastor. If there is a further need, the agent will refer the call to a counseling team. A chaplain or a counselor will return the pastor’s call within 24 to 48 hours for an initial consultation. Because of the NAMB-sponsored prayer line, SBC pastors will get a priority in this process. Crisis calls – if a pastor mentions imminent danger of harm to himself or others – will immediately get routed to the counseling team.
 
Pingleton noted that at times pastors call the care line for counsel about how to deal with tough mental health problems that go beyond their training and have arisen in their congregation.
 
“Research shows that the average person goes to their pastor first – even before a medical professional at times,” Pingleton said. “They’re the first line of defense, and they’re not trained well for that typically. It can be overwhelming. We want to come along side of them, support them, encourage them, educate and equip them – anything we can do to consult with them, to give them tips, tools and techniques about how they can minister more effectively in their role. They don’t have to feel like they are out on their own and over their head. We can give them clear and concise consultation that will be of immediate help.”
 
Pingleton reiterated Focus on the Family’s deeply held commitment to confidentiality. He notes the only instances for which they would breach the confidentiality of a counseling session would be the two cases when counselors are legally mandated to do so – if they receive information on the abuse or neglect of a child, disabled person or elderly person or if the caller presents an immediate danger to themselves or others.
 
Lewis, who spent more than two decades as a pastor before coming to NAMB in 2013, noted that often pastors spend much of their energy serving and supporting others through personal crises, but they often have little left to care for themselves.
 
“This care line will provide sound counsel for pastors,” Lewis said. “My encouragement to pastors is to allow this care line to be a source of God’s grace and comfort to find support through major difficulties.”
 
For a short video introduction to the pastoral care line, click here. For additional NAMB resources to help pastors, visit sendnetwork.com/pastor-for-pastors.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

10/8/2014 10:38:04 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



‘Left Behind’ stirs end-times discussion

October 8 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Despite negative reviews by some secular and Christian film critics, the end-times thriller “Left Behind” starring Nicolas Cage grossed nearly $7 million at the box office during its opening weekend and helped place renewed focus on the doctrine of Christ’s second coming.
 
“It’s a good film, one that doesn’t preach, but does remind moviegoers that there is a time when life will end on earth, one way or another,” Christian film critic Phil Boatwright told Baptist Press in written comments. “And, it subtly asks us if we are preparing for it.”
 
“Left Behind,” released Oct. 3, finished sixth in weekend earnings for Oct. 5-7, finishing behind “Gone Girl” and “Annabelle,” but ahead of “Bang Bang” and “The Good Lie” – all in their opening weekends as well. While “Left Behind” was shown in just 1,825 theaters, each of the five films that finished ahead of it in gross earnings was shown in at least 3,000 theaters, according to the website Box Office Mojo.
 
Based on the bestselling novel of the same title, Left Behind depicts a future rapture of the church preceding Jesus’ second coming. The plot focuses on airline pilot Rayford Steele (played by Cage) and journalist Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray) as they respond to the rapture of several passengers and crew members on a transatlantic airline flight.
 
Boatwright called “Left Behind,” rated PG-13 for violence and some references to drugs and sexual immorality, “well-made, well-acted and intense.”

 
Left_Behind10-08-14.jpg

“It could be said that the production is as much about appreciating family as it is about the rapture,” Boatwright said. “One reviewer assessed Nicolas Cage as looking tired throughout. I found the performance steady and authoritative, like Dean Martin’s airline pilot in Airport (many years ago). And the special effects are definitely a step up from the 2000 version with Kirk Cameron. This Left Behind may not be the best film of all time, but I don’t think it deserves the antagonism I’ve read in other reviews.”
 
A more negative review published in Christianity Today (CT) called the film “just a disaster flick injected with the slightest, most infinitesimal amount of Christianity possible.”
 
“Most Christians within the world of the movie – whether the street-preacher lady at the airport or Rayford Steele’s wife – are portrayed as insistent, crazy, delusional, or at the very least just really annoying,” Jackson Cuidon wrote in CT. “Steele’s wife’s conversion to Christianity is shown to have pushed her and her husband apart; we see that she’s decorated her house with crosses, throw-pillows that say ‘Pray’ across the front, and encouraging posters.
 
“That is the deepest conception of Christianity that his movie has: posters, pillows, and crucifixes,” Cuidon wrote.
 
The movie depicts an interpretation of Bible prophecy known as dispensational premillennialism, which teaches that Jesus will return to earth twice, once secretly to remove the church in a “rapture” preceding a period of tribulation, and once openly to defeat His enemies and end history as we know it.
 
The provost at one Southern Baptist seminary said the film’s release coincides with “a genuine renewed interest in the end times.”
 
“Broadly speaking, I suspect the dispensational premillennial view of the end times finds quite common adherence throughout Southern Baptist churches as [it] has been deeply held by many for the last century,” said Jason Duesing, provost of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He added that many Southern Baptists are “comfortably ‘agnostic’ when it comes to the end times.”
 
While “Left Behind” may spur discussion, “the film tells a fictional story and uses theology to do so,” Duesing said. “... It is not primarily a theological presentation. So when I am talking about dispensational premillenialism, I have in mind the historical and theological presentation of that view, not the Hollywood version.”
 
Various Christian viewpoints on the end times differ largely in their interpretation of the “millennium,” the “thousand years” referenced six times in Revelation 20:2-7. The term “millennium” derives from the Latin words “mille anni” meaning “thousand years.”
 
In addition to dispensational premillennialism, there are at least three other major views on the timing of Christ’s second coming relative to the millennium:

  • Historic premillennialism teaches that Christ will return before a thousand-year period of His reign on earth -- but only once, with no secret rapture of the church. Historic premillennialism was popular among second- and third-century church fathers, and has had proponents in every era of church history.

  • Postmillennialism teaches that there will be a thousand-year period of peace and righteousness on earth preceding Christ’s return. This position was popular among Baptists at the Southern Baptist Convention’s founding in 1845 but became obsolete in the 20th century, when the horrors of two world wars left few Christians believing the world would transition seamlessly into a period of harmony and peace.

  • Amillennialism teaches that Revelation’s “thousand years” is not a future era of earth’s history, but a figurative designation for either Christ’s present reign in the church or His eternal reign in the new heavens and new earth. Though not popular among Southern Baptist conservatives in the late 20th century, amillennialism originated in the second and third centuries, like premillennialism, and has been held by believers throughout church history.

The idea of two separate returns of Christ, as portrayed in “Left Behind,” is a relatively recent innovation, arising in the early 1900s with the Brethren Movement in Britain. The idea was popularized by C.I. Scofield through his Scofield Reference Bible.
 
Dispensational premillennialism was revised in later editions of the Scofield Bible and by various theologians of the 20th century, including Southern Baptists.
 
The Baptist Faith and Message does not address the millennium, stating simply that “Jesus will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth” (Article X).
 
Amillennialists and premillennialists of every variety coexist in all realms of Baptist life, with proponents of each position affirming the inerrancy of scripture. Hardly any Baptists regard differing positions on the millennium as an obstacle to cooperation in missions, theological education, evangelism and cultural engagement.
 
Duesing noted that today, “many younger Southern Baptists are likely to denounce dispensationalism because they feel they should” or “due to deeply held convictions. However, while I do hear of some enthusiasts embracing ammillenialism, mostly I find students defaulting to historic premillenialism.”
 
While Left Behind may provoke end-times reflection, Duesing cautioned moviegoers to view it as entertainment and not theological instruction.
 
“As with all films, much is made of their potential impact at the time of their release and often controversy ensues (for better or worse), but as with even the most memorable and life changing of films, the impact fades and one recalls that these are more cultural artifacts of entertainment than anything else,” Duesing said. “My understanding is that the Left Behind film aims more to be wholesome entertainment for families rather than catechism. Christians who watch the film thus should view it as such and not expect it to serve as a vehicle first for apologetic or sanctifying impact.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
 

Related Story:

'Left Behind' shapes up to be best movie on the rapture

10/8/2014 10:20:40 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Annual Meeting schedule

October 8 2014 by

Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will gather Nov. 10-11 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. Visit the convention’s annual meeting website (ncannualmeeting.org) for more information and updates for the meeting.

 
Monday evening, Nov. 10

2:00 p.m. Exhibits and Registration Open
6:00 Reflective Worship
6:15 Worship Concert – Vertical Generation, Youth Worship Choir, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem
6:30 Call to Order – Conley J. Bordeaux Sr.
Pledges (American & Christian flags, Bible)
Committee on Convention Meetings         
Prayer – James David Gailliard
6:55 Greetings
N.C. Baptist Men Partnerships
BSC Great Commission Partnerships
7:10 Theme Interpretation Video
Jackson Ussery and Rebecca Brambila
7:25 Baptist Children’s Homes – Michael Blackwell
7:50 Worship through Music – Vertical Generation
8:10 Introduction of President – Timmy D. Blair Sr.
Special Music – Darrell J. Bordeaux
8:15 President’s Address – Conley J. Bordeaux Sr.
8:45 Closing Prayer – Jeff Broadwell   
 

Tuesday morning, Nov. 11

7:30 a.m. Listening Sessions
2015 Budget Proposal (Pinehurst)
Proposed Bylaw Amendments (Turnberry)
8:00 Exhibits and registration open (exhibits close at 7:30 p.m.) 
8:30 Call to Worship – The Ambassadors
8:45 Call to Order – Conley J. Bordeaux Sr.      
Prayer – Linda Blackburn
8:50 Theme Interpretation – Robert J. Peters III
9:00 Worship through Prayer – Robert J. Peters III
9:10 Worship through Music – The Ambassadors
9:20 Board of Directors Report – Michael Barrett
Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making – Milton A. Hollifield Jr.
10:00 Music – The Ambassadors
10:05 Miscellaneous Business
10:20 Election of Officers (Fixed Order of Business) – President
10:30 Board of Directors Report – Michael Barrett
11:00 Institution & Agency Reports
North Carolina Baptist Foundation
Biblical Recorder
North Carolina Baptist Hospital               
North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry
11:30 Closing Prayer – David Gasperson
 

Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 11

1:15 p.m. Call to Order – Conley J. Bordeaux Sr.       
Prayer – Jonas Perez
1:20 Greeting – LifeWay Christian Resources
1:25 Theme Interpretation – Noah Crowe
1:30 Worship through Prayer – Noah Crowe
1:35 Worship through Music – Kenny Lamm
1:40 Election of Officers
First & Second Vice President    
1:50 North Carolina Baptist Men – Richard Brunson
2:05 Convention Committee Reports
Committee on Nominations         
Committee on Resolutions and Memorials      
Historical Committee
2:20 Music – Kenny Lamm
2:25 Board of Directors Report (Fixed Order of Business) – Michael Barrett
Thank You from SBC Executive Committee
Proposed 2015 Budget for BSC and NCMO
2:55 Breakout Sessions Promotion – Lynn Sasser
3:00 Closing prayer – Angela Honeycutt
3:15 First Breakout Session (see list)
4:15 Second Breakout Session  (see list)
 

Tuesday evening, Nov. 11

6:45 Call to Worship – N.C. Baptist Singers and Orchestra
7:15 Call to Order – Conley J. Bordeaux Sr.
Video Presentation by the President of the SBC: Call to Columbus
Prayer – Perry K. Brindley III
7:20 Greetings – International Mission Board,
North American Mission Board
7:35 Evaluation
7:40 Presentation of Officers
7:45 Greater Things Worship Service
Worship Leaders – N.C. Baptist Singers and Orchestra, N.C. Baptist Renewing Worship Band Convention Sermon – Jonathan Falwell
Prayer – Henry S. (Sandy) Beck III

10/8/2014 10:13:11 AM by | with 0 comments



Despite ISIS, BGR serving in tough places

October 8 2014 by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press

When ISIS began shelling this family’s northern Iraq neighborhood, they had to flee into the night like everyone else. But with four children with disabilities, their escape was more difficult than most.
 
A daughter who is blind, another with epilepsy and two sons with muscular dystrophy distinguished the family from others.
 
They left their cattle and chicken farm and walked three hours to the relative safety of a nearby city. Meanwhile, 70 of their townspeople were kidnapped by ISIS and their fate remained unknown.
 
Baptist Global Response (BGR) is onsite to help families displaced by the terrorists.

 
ISIS10-08-14.jpg

BGR photo
This Iraqi Christian is among those forcibly displaced by ISIS attacks on their hometowns. Global Hunger Relief, the Southern Baptist channel for tackling the global hunger crisis, is aiding the refugees.

“When I met this family, they had taken shelter with seven other families, 30 people in total,” said Abraham Shepherd, who directs BGR work in the Middle East. “When you visit with these forcibly displaced families, you are struck that they come from different segments of society – a policeman, a working mother, a nun – yet they all shared the same story of pain and suffering. Escaping through the night, they left with nothing.
 
“When we met them, they had been displaced for one month, and only one food basket had been given to them.”
 
BGR relief teams have found many families like these, pooling their resources to rent a house or apartment, Shepherd said. At times as many as 90 people are crammed into one space, and they generally have gone unnoticed by relief groups who focus their aid donations on the big refugee camps.
 
Yet even in the camps, conditions are difficult.
 
“We ended one day with a visit to a Syrian refugee camp,” Shepherd said. “It has become a small city. You can smell the stench of the sewage, running from the many public toilets scattered throughout the camp.”
 
Some of those families have been stuck in that camp for three years while the crisis back home grinds on, Shepherd said.
 
“We learned that if you’ve been a long-term refugee, you have the right to be ‘upgraded’ to a tent with a concrete floor, and then later you will be allowed to build a structure on the same spot, instead of the tent,” Shepherd said. “But they have had three years of living in tents, with no one finding a permanent solution to their problem. They are tired of waiting for a country to accept them. They are depressed. Their kids are undernourished. They just want to go home.”
 
Using resources provided by Global Hunger Relief, the Southern Baptist channel for tackling the global hunger crisis, BGR teams are bringing hope and the Good News of God’s love to despairing families, Shepherd said.
 
“It’s a privilege to serve here in tough places, touching people’s lives in a way that will have lasting impact,” Shepherd said. “We are able to do this because of God’s love and your prayers – and the generous giving of Southern Baptists.
 
“We have been able to have access to places no one has reached – and to people’s lives – in an amazing way.”
 

Donations at www.globalhungerrelief.org will replenish resources used in this relief effort. Donations are also possible by texting BGR to 80888.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.)

10/8/2014 9:58:19 AM by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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