N.C. Missions Conference: ‘Be forgiven, offer redemption’

May 2 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Bright yellow shirts, hats and vests dotted the sprawling campus of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte as North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) staff and volunteers readied for their annual event. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s auxiliary organization, which is also called Baptists on Mission, hosted the 2016 N.C. Missions Conference on Friday and Saturday, April 15-16, to encourage and equip Christians to live on mission.
More than 1,300 North Carolina Baptists heard speakers from across the world in a full schedule of events that focused on the theme, “Rescued and Redeemed.”


BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Richard Brunson, right, president of Baptists on Mission (also known as North Carolina Baptist Men) presents Bob Stewart, center, with the 2016 Volunteer of the Year award. Visit photo gallery.

Headlining plenary sessions were Bob Goff, author and speaker; Bryan Loritts, lead pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, Calif.; and Gary Chapman, author and senior associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The conference featured TED-style “theme testimonies” from speaker and author Rebekah Lyons; Meredith Brunson, missionary and daughter of NCBM director Richard Brunson; and Cheryl Allen, founder and director of Door of Hope ministry in South Africa; and others.
Grammy award winning artist Laura Story led musical worship for the event.
A volunteer dinner kicked off the two-day meeting, featuring reports from more than 20 NCBM mission project leaders. The updates highlighted global disaster relief incidents, North American church planting efforts, mobile medical clinics, Southeast Asian orphan ministries, U.S. college ministries and many more.
Main session speakers emphasized the need for Christians to remember their dependence on God for rescue and redemption, even as they pour out their lives for others.
“God does not just use people to accomplish tasks, but God uses tasks to accomplish people,” said Loritts.
He spoke from the book of James about the necessity for patience in ministry, referring to the process by which a pearl is formed through an oyster’s attempt to resolve the annoyance of a sand grain.
“You don’t get pearls unless you first go through life’s irritating, exacerbating and frustrating grains of sand,” Loritts said. “God is relentlessly trying to turn your life into a pearl.”


BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Author Rebekah Lyons shares about her “crippling” panic attacks and how finding her identity in God helped her through difficult times. Visit photo gallery.

Lyons recounted a period in her life when she battled debilitating anxiety. Shortly after her family moved to Manhattan, she began to experience panic attacks, something she’d never encountered before.
“It was crippling,” she said. “The thing about despair is that you start to believe it will never change. I took on that identity, and I embraced it. I martyred-up for it.”
She found momentary relief from the anxiety in productivity, friends and family – all good things – until one night she came to a breaking point. Her head shot off the pillow during the pre-dawn hours of the night. In an all-too-familiar experience, she struggled for breath as her heart raced uncontrollably. Broken prayers escaped through gasps for air.
“The living God came upon me and I found my voice and I said ‘Rescue me. Deliver me. I cannot do that without you,’” Lyons remembered. “In that split second, my body broke and mid-panic attack, my body fell upon the bed.”
God had answered her persistent prayers. She asked the crowd, “How many in this room need a rescuer?”
Goff offered similar encouragement in his talk, “Just receive forgiveness. Be forgiven.”
His presentation, laced with humor, centered on a line from Phillipians 2:3, “consider others as more important than yourselves.” Repeating on numerous occasions the guiding principle of his life, “Love everybody always,” Goff expanded on the idea.
He pressed attendees to love others in practical but unnatural ways.
“Find people that you just don’t feel right about, you just don’t understand them,” he said. “And then start by getting to know their name. Even in your church there’s one that’s just a little odd.
“Love them and it’ll change everything. They’ll feel like they just met heaven.”
Goff continued, “If following Jesus doesn’t lead you to the poor, the hurting and the creepy people, you’re not following Jesus! You’re being popular. Stop it!”
Chapman’s talk resembled his most popular book, The Five Love Languages, but he said the two were unrelated. He outlined five “languages of apology,” based on another book he co-authored.
He explained different elements of remorse people expect to hear in order to accept an apology as genuine and meaningful. The essentials were expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuine repenting and requesting forgiveness.
Hands-on service opportunities were offered during the conference, along with many breakout sessions that highlighted and expanded on specific aspects of ministry.
NCBM honored Robert (Bob) Stewart, member of First Baptist Church in Durham, as the 2016 Volunteer of the Year. Richard Brunson said Stewart was “instrumental in beginning our new Health Screening Ministry and getting the new Health Screening Bus.”
In addition, he helped implement the International Indigenous Community Development (IICD) program in Guatemala, including the Good Shepherd Children’s Home and medical center. Stewart has also worked in many other places around the world.

5/2/2016 3:07:52 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

WMU-NC jumps ‘Both Feet In’

May 2 2016 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

From early on, Amy Pardue Boone credits her parents as well as church leaders with her interest in missions.
The new executive director-treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) discussed the importance of missions at her first Missions Extravaganza April 1-3 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain.
“I come with great respect for the legacy of WMU North Carolina,” said Boone. “I know the very long history that you have, and I am very humbled to now be a part of that legacy, and I have great respect for the staff that you currently have and the ministries they are involved in. My goal is to come alongside them and encourage them.”


BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
University of North Carolina fans cheer their team during the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament. The group was catching the game after one of the Woman’s Missionary Union of N.C. general sessions. See photo gallery.

The theme for the 125th annual meeting of WMU-NC – Both Feet In: A Journey to Surrender, Sacrifice and Service – was taken from a book title, written by Bud Fray, who served in Africa for 28 years with his wife Jane. He was the missionary speaker for the weekend event.
Fray shared about surrender, sacrifice and service through three sessions over the weekend.
“Nobody took (Jesus’) life from Him,” he said. “He gave it willingly. He willingly laid down His life for our sin. He saved you on purpose, and He saved you for a purpose.”
God didn’t just save people to take them to heaven, Fray stressed.
“He did save you for somebody else to find heaven … through you,” Fray said. “You’re not exempt if you are a disciple.”
Next, believers should offer themselves as a sacrifice to God. He urged ladies to surrender their all to God.
“Hearts are hungry around the world,” Fray said. “Our world is the most winnable in history. There are opportunities that we’ve never had. We have to walk in obedient love.”
Caroline Jones, a N.C. native who now lives in Birmingham, Ala., provided the theme interpretation in the general sessions.
Jones, who formerly served WMU-NC in a variety of capacities including president, discussed faith, family, failure and fear.
“When God calls us, He equips us to respond, but He lets us make the decision about whether or not to respond,” Jones said.
She learned what surrender meant at Ridgecrest Conference Center in 1976. That was when her heart opened to “desire to be part of whatever God is doing wherever He is doing it.”
Jones advised the women not to say “no” to God.
“Read the Old Testament,” she said. “We have to trust Him with all that we are, all that we have, all that we love and jump in with both feet. Our faith has to include trusting God to be true to His Word and has to be real enough to pulse His strength through our veins when we feel faint of heart.”
Most people’s excuse of busy-ness keeping them from getting involved in missions is a poor one, Boone said during Sunday morning’s service. “They make time for whatever they want to do,” she said.
Fifty percent of N.C. Baptist churches have some WMU-NC organization, she said. Calling it a “sad statistic,” she pledged to travel the state hailing WMU-NC as “one of the best-kept secrets.”
She promised to highlight the ministry of Camp Mundo Vista as well.
“I know that numbers have been down lately,” Boone said.
She cited societal trends away from sending children to camp. She also credited not having as many age-level groups like Girls in Action with the lower numbers.
While she considers raising money as one of her jobs, Boone said she doesn’t want to be bound by not having money.
“The money that we do have, we are going to spend it as faithfully as we can spend it, and we are going to ask God to bless it like the loaves and fishes and ask that it will go farther than it could have gone on our own power,” she said.
She stressed the need to make WMU-NC relevant to the next generation while “not in any way compromising our message or what we believe.”
The WMU-NC staff is smaller than it has been in the past. That means the ones who are working are carrying the load for two or three positions.
“That is a difficult thing to ask of them,” she said.
In her president’s report April 2, Dee Dee Moody highlighted some key events in 2015 including the centennial commemoration of Fannie E.S. Heck at Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. This year, WMU-NC worked with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) to provide gift baskets for returning missionaries who had taken the voluntary retirement incentive offered by the International Mission Board. The BSC provide a meal at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem for the missionaries.
She raved over the generosity of the women who gave around $21,000 in a matter of weeks to help put together baskets for the missionaries.
She also highlighted the Tar Heel Talk magazine as now being available online.
With 34 new age-level groups since Missions Extravaganza 2015, Moody shared that there are incentives for new starts, including discounted curriculum.
Officers elected were Dee Dee Moody, president; Deborah Taylor, vice president; Mary Ellen Bowman, vice president of development; Barbara Hill, recording secretary; and Beth McDonald, assistant recording secretary.
Approved members-at-large include: Mary Anne Croom and Claire Presley, Region 1; Becky Johnson Wroten, Mary Ann Hayes and Patricia Hagans, Region 3; Cathy Callahan, Region 4; Tiffany Brown Seaford, Region 5; Gail Reynolds, Region 6; and Ann Weaver, Region 7.
Ladies approved a $953,122 budget. Mary Ellen Bowman, chairman of finance committee and vice president for development, emphasized the need for giving more than ever now that the executive director-treasurer position has been filled.
 The largest amount of the budget ($435,234) supports the administrative expenses (meetings, office expenses and payroll).
Last year’s budget was not met, Bowman said, so “We’re going to have to dig deeper.”
Bowman highlighted some of the ministries that occur at Camp Mundo Vista and invited women to bring their church groups for retreats.
“Our camp needs you,” she said. “If you want to see God; if you want to hear God; if you want to taste Him, smell Him, touch Him, be a part of the prison retreat. For those three days they have love, total, unconditional love. … Your feet are exactly where you are on mission every single day.”
Kenny Lamm, BSC worship consultant, led the music with worshipASIA band.
Some recent staff changes include:

  • Jenn B* has been added to WMU-NC staff as communications coordinator.

  • Carrieanna Lohr will be the summer camp director for Camp Mundo Vista.

  • Andi Wilson has been named associate for leadership development.

The ladies also collected items to fill Buckets of Hope for Baptist Global Response. Next year’s meeting is March 24-25, 2017, at First Baptist Church in Greensboro.
More than 600 women participated in the weekend event.
*Name changed

5/2/2016 3:03:32 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

House documents strike at abortion clinic claims

May 2 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Denials by Planned Parenthood (PPFA) and its allies of profiteering in the fetal tissue business have received a blow from congressional investigators.
A House of Representatives panel offered evidence at an April 20 hearing that abortion clinics profit from trade in body parts of babies in apparent violation of federal law. The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives released documents from a fetal tissue procurement business that appeared to contradict claims that clinics do not make a profit when selling organs and tissue from aborted babies.
The panel’s hearing on fetal tissue pricing was the latest step in an investigation prompted by the release last year of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The videos, recorded by hidden camera, featured Planned Parenthood executives acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
The House panel barely referred to Planned Parenthood – the country’s leading abortion provider – during the hearing, but its role in the investigation was not lost on its defenders or critics.
The House’s investigation “has demonstrated what the video testimony showed to be true, that Planned Parenthood and other groups have made a profit from the sale of infant body parts,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Planned Parenthood is not a health care provider; they are pirates and grave-robbers of defenseless infants who have no grave,” Moore said. “No culture can call itself humane while it tolerates such wickedness. I pray that our lawmakers would see this gross injustice and act on the side of human rights.”
The hearing focused on whether payments for baby parts made to abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies – which act as middlemen on behalf of researchers – violate a 1993 law. That measure prohibits payments beyond reasonable costs for such activities as processing, storage and transportation of human fetal tissue.
Documents made available by the panel from a tissue procurement business included:

  • A marketing brochure distributed at an abortion trade association meeting that said a clinic could help with biomedical research in a way that is “financially profitable;”

  • Exhibits showing technicians employed by the procurement company work within clinics to identify and procure body parts of unborn children being aborted;

  • A list of body parts researchers can order;

  • A screen grab of the company’s website that shows the step-by-step process from a researcher ordering specific tissue, to a technician gaining pre-abortion consent from the woman for use of the body part, to a technician shipping the tissue to the procurement company paying the clinic per tissue;

  • Lists of payments by researchers to the procurement company, including purchases of fetal brains of 5 to 24 weeks’ gestation for $715 apiece.

Based on the exhibits outlining the work of procurement technicians in abortion clinics, panel investigators concluded in a white paper released at the hearing that “all possible management guidance, tasks, and responsibilities are undertaken by the [procurement business] procurement tech employee and that no tasks are performed by the abortion clinic. Thus, the costs of tissue acquisition are entirely born by entities other [than] the abortion clinic.”
Since the abortion clinic “has no reasonable costs to be reimbursed, it raises an inference that it sold the human fetal tissue for a profit,” panel investigators reported.
Democrats on the panel disputed the trustworthiness of the documents presented by the Republican majority. Some assailed the committee’s existence while seeking to discredit the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which produced the secret videos of Planned Parenthood officials.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D.-Colo., called the documents “misleading and, moreover, the conclusions that are drawn” false.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D.-Calif., said the panel is “the very definition of a kangaroo court, a mock court that disregards the rules of law and justice to validate a predetermined conclusion.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, described the Democrats’ strategy as “a desperate attempt to detract attention from the evidence that abortion facilities like Planned Parenthood participate in an elaborate human fetal tissue procurement network designed to harvest, package and profit from the sale of parts from aborted children. The Democrats’ refusal to cooperate in this investigation speaks volumes about their dedication to abortion ideology.”
The panel’s chair – Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R.-Tenn. – defended the documents, telling Democrats they were produced by the panel’s “regular investigatory work. We have had things that have come to us from whistleblowers, from subpoenas from former employees, citizens that have filed FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, the panel’s whistleblower portal, as I said, and also an Internet search archive search engine.”
Rep. Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania joined other Republican panel members in decrying the fetal trade. “[F]or crying out loud, this is the of baby body parts,” he said. “There is a market for baby body parts, and you get what you pay for. This is absolutely repulsive.”
Among witnesses at the hearing were four former federal attorneys, three who seemed to be in basic agreement in their analyses of the documents the panel provided.
One, Kenneth Sukhia of Tallahassee, Fla., said after reviewing the exhibits and the videos, “[I]t strikes me as odd that there would not be an aggressive and meaningful investigation [by the Department of Justice] into the allegation that indeed human baby parts are being sold for profit.”
The panel redacted the name of the tissue procurement business connected to the documents, but a Democratic member of the panel named StemExpress as the company. In addition to videos of Planned Parenthood officials, CMP also released undercover footage of StemExpress officials discussing their work. It also showed video of a former employee of StemExpress discussing her experience procuring baby organs at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
While Planned Parenthood and its Democratic allies have charged CMP with fraud, CMP has not only released edited versions of the videos but has posted at its website what it calls full footage of the conversations between PPFA officials and people posing as representatives of a biologics firm. A digital, forensics analysis in September reported the videos “are authentic.” Coalfire Systems Inc., which has some Fortune 500 companies among its clients, said the videos “show no evidence of manipulation or editing.”
PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-15). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
President Barack Obama vetoed legislation in January that would have cut nearly 90 percent of federal funds for Planned Parenthood in the next year.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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5/2/2016 2:53:24 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Businessman to give day’s profits to overseas missions

May 2 2016 by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today

A central Kentucky businessman is doing his part to support international missions by giving a day’s worth of profits to spread the gospel.
Robert Johnson, owner of Johnson Small Engine and Farm Supply in Harrodsburg and a member of nearby Salvisa Baptist Church, expects to generate at least $2,000 and possibly far more, depending on the volume of sales on May 6, the day designated for the initiative.


Kentucky Today photo
Robert Johnson, owner of a Harrodsburg, Ky., farm supply store, is donating a day's worth of profits to international missions. Johnson, a member of Salvisa Baptist Church, has set aside May 6 for the initiative.

“I’m married; I’ve got two great kids; I’ve got a successful business; everything has been going great for me,” Johnson said. “God has really blessed me. At this point in my life, I’ve asked myself the question: ‘What am I going to do for Him?’”
The answer became clear, Johnson said, during a church service when Pastor Jonathan Jones challenged the congregation to do more for God.
Johnson, whose store generates nearly $1 million a year in sales and services, had been saddened by news that the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) International Mission Board was having financial difficulties and missionaries were leaving the field.
“I just really had a heartfelt desire to do something more,” Johnson said. “Why couldn’t we just take a day and devote it to foreign missions and donate all the profits for that day for that purpose.”
Jones said Johnson isn’t the kind of person who seeks attention, but that he decided to go public with his initiative in hopes of challenging other businessmen to do their part for international missions.
“He has a heart for missions,” Jones said of Johnson. “He wants to get the word out about the need to support the work of missionaries.”
Jones said he feels blessed to be serving in a church that, like Johnson, believes so strongly in giving through the Cooperative Program (CP), the SBC’s giving channel for missions and ministry.
Records show Salvisa Baptist Church, a member of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has given a total of more than $800,000 through CP to support the spread of the gospel.
“Our church is all about loving our community, whether it’s the community next door or the community around the world,” Jones said.
Johnson said he hopes all Kentucky Baptists will accept his challenge to give.
“This is a challenge to all individuals who think they can’t make a difference,” he said. “Yes, you can. You can do it by taking small steps.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger Alford is editor of Kentucky Today at, an online news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

5/2/2016 2:48:43 PM by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Pennsylvania church shooter charged with manslaughter

April 29 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A member of a Philadelphia Southern Baptist church has been charged with voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the shooting death of a fellow church member during a worship service April 24.
Mark Storms, 46, allegedly shot and killed 27-year-old Robert Braxton during an altercation in the worship center of Keystone Fellowship’s campus in North Wales, Pa., shortly after the 11 a.m. service began.
Keystone released a statement to Baptist Press April 28 thanking Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele’s office “for its careful and thorough work in processing the evidence pertaining to this case.” The congregation also thanked “our community for the tremendous outpouring of support during this difficult time.”
According to reports by the Associated Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Braxton allegedly became disruptive when a fellow worship attendee told him he was in an occupied seat. After church leaders tried unsuccessfully to calm Braxton, Storms showed Braxton his permit to carry a firearm and asked him to leave.
Braxton then punched Storms in the face, and Storms shot him twice with a semi-automatic handgun, the Inquirer reported. Steele said Storms, who had no official position in the church, told police he was “trying to stop him because I was afraid he was going to hurt me and other people.”
Steele told reporters, “It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to bring a gun to church.” He added that the manner in which Storms flashed his carry permit could have given people the incorrect impression he had an official role in law enforcement or with the church.
Keystone said it has not answered questions about the shooting “out of respect for the investigation being conducted by the district attorney” and “as [Steele’s office] requested of us.”
“We were asked to allow them to conduct their investigation unimpeded by our interference, and we were asked by them to allow them to release these details at the appropriate time,” the church stated. “In the meantime, we have been focused exclusively on ministering to the hurting, especially the Braxton family. It is the district attorney’s job to administer justice, and it is our job to help those affected cope with this terrible tragedy. We have been ‘weeping with those who weep’ (Romans 12:15).”
Storms was arraigned April 28 and ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)


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4/29/2016 12:00:11 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Potential church planters get enhanced screening

April 29 2016 by NAMB Communications Staff

Church planter Bryan Bair became involved in Southern Baptist life as a youth when he accepted the invitation to join a friend at church. God called Bair into ministry at a Southern Baptist church and he had served in Southern Baptist churches for nearly two decades.
But the 38-year-old, who was in the beginning stages of planting South Point Church in Tallahassee, Fla., was thinking long and hard about whether the new outreach should be part of a denomination.
While he appreciated the theology of Southern Baptists, he wondered about the convention’s commitment to engage the culture and plant churches.
Then he attended the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) reconstituted Send Network Church Planter Assessment last October.


NAMB photo by John Swain
Assessment and training of new Southern Baptist church planters, gathering at the Atlanta-area North American Mission Board in January, has been enhanced by assessors who provide more comprehensive guidance to prospective planters and their wives.

After that, he no longer doubted.
“The assessment rejuvenated my faith in SBC life and its leadership,” said Bair, now a church planter partnering with the Florida Baptist Convention. “First, I saw there was a plan there. Second, I could see they were serious about the gospel and wanted to engage the culture and reach the lost.”
Bair appreciated the intensity of NAMB’s assessment; he even went back to the assessors for a second round of critique after sharing his vision with them. It helped him develop a more concise explanation of that vision – one of his key takeaways from the experience.
About half of church planter prospects like Bair pass the assessment, receiving either a “green” or a “yellow” light to move forward.
The two-day church planting assessment retreats – which include both the church planter and his wife – begin before candidates ever arrive on site with a series of online pre-assessments. Once the couple arrives, a team of eight trained evaluators conducts a series of large-group experiences and one-on-one interviews with the candidates focused around nine different traits. To best serve the sending church, the pastor – or someone from the staff – also attends the retreat to observe the evaluation process. Each assessment usually has about six couples.
As part of the evaluation of a planter’s communication skills, candidates preach in front of the rest of the group and the assessors. They also set forth the vision for their church plant in a large group format where the assessors hear the vision and ask questions afterward.
The Launch Network, birthed in the metro Atlanta area in 2011, created the outline and much of the content for the new assessment process. From 2011 to 2014, just under 200 planters went through the assessment before the process and resources expanded to NAMB in 2015.
At the end of the two days, prospective planters receive one of four outcomes. Planters given a “Ready” (green light) are invited to join a collaborative training cohort to further prepare to launch a church in the next six to 18 months. Planters given a “Ready with Conditions” (yellow light) are generally strong candidates but with an area they need to work on as they move forward. The assessors give these planters a plan for their development, and they too are invited to join a training cohort to prepare to plant in the next six to 18 months. So far, about half of the planters assessed fall into the first two categories.
A prospective planter could also receive “Further Development Needed” (orange light) in which he is encouraged to slow down and work through areas where he needs more time and growth before moving forward. These planters are given a development plan and a time frame in which they could go through a reassessment interview in the future. The last recommendation is “Cautioned” (red light). Candidates receiving this recommendation are encouraged to take church planting off their radar for an extended period of time, work through their development plans and consider other areas of ministry.
Jeff Christopherson, vice president of NAMB’s Send Network for church planting across North America, said the tougher assessment allows NAMB to be better stewards of Southern Baptist funds – and people.
“We really want to put the resources in the hands of leaders who are probably going to have the best chance of succeeding,” Christopherson said.
But, he added, it’s also about helping the 50 percent of planters who won’t pass the assessment.
“I have a list of leaders I know who have started to plant churches, haven’t succeeded and aren’t in ministry anymore,” Christopherson said. “That’s a long, long list. I know a man who has a list of three pages on a legal pad of people he can account for who aren’t in ministry and started out as church planters.
“You need to be called to a life of a church planter. Just because God doesn’t call you to be a lead church planter doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have a wonderful plan for you in ministry,” Christopherson said.
Scott Kearney, who participated in an assessment in Boston last October, expects to plant a church in Nashua, N.H., later this year. He said the assessment helped him and his wife, noting that church planters’ wives often miss out on training and input as they prepare for a new stage of ministry.
“Charity and I have conversations about things we were not talking about before, whether it was leadership issues or expectations in ministry,” Kearney said. “How does she feel called into church planting? Her sense of calling was different than mine. And what were my expectations of her that I didn’t know I had? That was huge for us.”
After the assessment, Kearney received a recommendation to be a part of training with several other planters who meet every other week to discuss areas of growth and further reading.
“It’s awesome that NAMB wants to invest in planters and not just send them out shotgun approach,” Kearney said. “It builds into us in a pretty big way and ultimately helps those we’ll be serving.”
To learn how to be more involved in church planting in North America, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of the North American Mission Board.)

4/29/2016 11:54:52 AM by NAMB Communications Staff | with 0 comments

Tennessee Christian counselors get ‘added protection’

April 29 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A Tennessee law allowing licensed counselors to opt out of serving patients whose goals “conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor” has drawn praise from two Southern Baptist mental health care professionals despite the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) condemnation of the measure as discriminatory against homosexuals.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1556 into law April 27, noting it does not leave anyone without mental health care. The law takes effect immediately.
“There are two key provisions of this legislation that addressed concerns I had about clients not receiving care,” Haslam, a Republican, said according to The Tennessean. “First, the bill clearly states that it ‘shall not apply to a counselor or therapist when an individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.’ Secondly, the bill requires that any counselor or therapist who feels they cannot serve a client due to the counselor’s sincerely held principles must coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy.
“The substance of this bill doesn’t address a group, issue or belief system,” Haslam said. “Rather, it allows counselors – just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers – to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle.”
Chuck Hannaford, a Southern Baptist clinical psychologist in Germantown, Tenn., said the law is a form of “consumer protection” for counseling patients.
Mental health care in Tennessee, Hannaford said, is legally regulated in part by the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, which requires counselors to operate from a “value-neutral” perspective, seeing all prospective clients at least once regardless of their problems or value systems.
Under the code, a counselor can refer a patient outside his or her field of expertise to another counselor, but the referral cannot be based solely on values or religious beliefs – a requirement added to the code in 2014. The Tennessee law now stipulates that violating that portion of the code does not constitute a basis for government action against a counselor.
Such requirements decrease the quality of mental health care in Tennessee and helped inspire the new law, said Hannaford, president of Heartlife Professional Soul Care.
“If the ACA says that I have to be value-neutral and I have to see anybody that comes through the door in private practice,” he said, “then the quality of service across the board in the state of Tennessee would be diminished tremendously.”
Hannaford added, “Why would you force me, as a clinician, to deal with somebody when it’s against my value system? There’s a potential for me to do harm to that person because I’m supposed to be self-aware as a clinician. I’m supposed to understand my limits.”
Art Terrazas, an ACA spokesman, said the Tennessee bill “originally was put in place and proposed by a group that did not like ... the LGBT group.” The measure, he said, could undermine the goal of helping people become mentally healthy.
The law’s allowance for refusing service based on any “sincerely held principles,” Terrazas said, “gives the counselor such wide latitude. If the counselor’s personal belief is that African American people shouldn’t seek counseling ... [or] if you’re a woman, they can turn you away. If you’re left-handed. Even if you’re a Christian, you could be turned away.
“There’s a huge possible negative cascading effect that could occur because of this,” Terrazas said.
Jason Gibson, director of the Babb Center, a counseling ministry extension of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., said fears that Christian counselors will discriminate against anyone are misplaced.
“Christ calls us to meet everyone right where they are,” Gibson said. “The Babb Center sees people from all walks of life and is committed to meeting them where they are while encouraging them to recognize the truth in God’s Word. A Christ mandate is against all those discriminatory things people are worried about.”
The Tennessee law “should have been unnecessary,” Gibson said, but is “an added legal protection” to ensure all counselors will be permitted to operate according to their value systems.
The law “does not change how we’ve been operating or how we will operate,” Gibson said of the Babb Center. “It’s nice to have some added protection, but we feel called to meet people right where they are to give them hope and love in the midst of what’s going on in their lives.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/29/2016 11:51:11 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ark Encounter gets tax incentive up to $18.25M

April 29 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Kentucky tourism authority has granted the Answers in Genesis (AiG) apologetics ministry a tax incentive that could top $18 million for its Ark Encounter museum opening July 7 in Williamstown.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority approved the incentive at its April 25th meeting, ending a years-long AiG battle with the state for the incentive that allows developers of certain tourism projects to recover up to 25 percent of the project’s development costs over a 10-year span.


This screen capture from an Answers in Genesis video shows the progress of the Ark Encounter’s construction as of April. Opening date is July 7.

The approval followed a Jan. 25 federal appeals court decision requiring the state to grant the incentive that AiG had sued to obtain. The state had argued that AiG would use religion to discriminate in hiring employees, and that the use of tax incentives to advance religion violated state law.
Newly elected Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin chose not to contest the January court ruling. The tourism authority, with four new members appointed by Bevin, approved the incentive 7-0 with two members absent, the Courier-Journal newspaper reported.
Through a $62 million bond offering and $33.5 million in donations, AiG has raised $93.2 million of the $95.5 million goal to fund the museum’s construction, said president, CEO, and founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham said, emphasizing the incentive is not being used to fund the project. Instead, businesses must operate for a full year before beginning to receive rebates from the incentive.
“A lot of the atheists and some of the secular media were claiming for the last couple of years now, that we’re using tax-payer money … to build the ark,” Ham said. “Well, the tourism tax incentive didn’t even get approved until this past Monday, so it has nothing to do with building the ark. This is a performance-based incentive, and it’s only a rebate on the sales taxes paid within the facility once you open, and it’s up to a certain maximum over 10 years.”
AiG has estimated the rebate could amount to as much as $18.25 million, based on attendance projections and the cost of the project’s first phase. Still, the incentive was a contributing factor to AiG’s decision to build the ark in Kentucky.
“We commissioned a specialist in real estate to look for properties” in the tri-state area of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, Ham said. “The tourism tax incentive was certainly a ... significant factor in the choosing of the property.”
AiG did not apply for the tax incentive for its first project in Kentucky, the Creation Museum in nearby Petersburg, which AiG said has attracted over 2.5 million guests since opening in 2007.


Answers in Genesis photo
This 2015 photo shows construction underway on the Ark Encounter, Answers in Genesis’ life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark in Williamsburg, Ky.

“When we first came out here and looked for a place to build the Creation Museum,” Ham said, “we just did not know about the incentive” that must be applied for before construction begins.
The Ark Encounter is a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark with 140,000 square feet of exhibit space inside. It is flanked by a 1,500-seat restaurant, a lodge, a small zoo and other amenities.
Ham hopes the ark and upcoming phases of the biblical theme park, including a World City, a Tower of Babel and a First Century Village, will spur interest in the Bible and encourage many to accept the gospel.
“The secularists have been trying to shut down people talking about the Bible, talking about Christianity,” Ham said. “[AiG wants] to do something that will impact the public with the Christian message, in other words, get them talking about it, and the ark certainly will.
“From what our research indicates, up to 2 million people a year could come to this,” he said. “I think it will be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of our era. I don’t think there’s any other Christian attraction like this ... that would impact that many people.”
The Ark Encounter will offer day and night attendance during its first 40 days of operation, evoking the 40 days and nights of rain from which Noah’s ark provided protection. Tickets will allow attendance from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., or 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
“While the Ark Encounter will be able to accommodate 16,000 guests per day, our consultant’s research has shown that we could possibly expect more than that during the first few weeks of opening, especially during the summer time frame,” Ham said. “So, to make sure this themed attraction remains an enjoyable experience for everyone, we are adding a nighttime shift for the first 40 days.”
Its July 7th opening is also significant.
“We are so excited that the construction progress and schedule landed on this 7/7 date,” Ham said in an AiG press release. “Genesis 7:7 states that Noah and his family entered the ark. So it’s fitting we allow the public to enter the life-size Ark on 7/7.”
Ham expects construction on the ark itself to be complete by the end of May, with landscaping and construction of amenities continuing up until the opening. The ark is slated to employ 35-40 full time workers and 300–400 seasonal staff.
The second phase of the project, a World City, will display life as it would have been in Noah’s house and city, Ham said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)


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Atheists plan billboards against Ark museum
AiG wins court battle for Kentucky tax incentive

4/29/2016 11:42:41 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Atheists plan billboards against Ark museum

April 29 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A small group of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana atheists has launched a campaign to buy billboards mocking the message of the Answers in Genesis (AiG) Ark Encounter museum and its July 7 opening.
The 1,500-member Tri-State Freethinkers have raised $10,000 to post negative billboards near the life-sized recreation of Noah’s Ark and to, as their Indiegogo funding page asserts, “drive our billboard around the Ark Encounter every weekend for the entire summer.”
Others not specifically identified with Tri-State Freethinkers have attacked the Ark Encounter with posts on Twitter, accusing God of genocide and questioning the plausibility of the Genesis account.
Conversely, the AiG apologetics ministry has raised $62 million from a bond offering and $33.5 million in donations to build the museum and other attractions just 40 miles from its museum that has attracted 2.5 million visitors since 2007.


Answers in Genesis photo
An artist’s rendering depicts the Ark Encounter set to open July 7 in Williamstown, Ky.

AiG founder and president Ken Ham continues to defend biblical truth.
“This new atheist billboard campaign highlights how intolerant these secularists are of Christians exercising their right to freedom of religion – and also highlights how inconsistent they are in their beliefs,” Ham said in an April 21st blog post. “They don’t want people to be exposed to the truth of God’s Word.”
“It’s interesting that atheists, who have no foundation for moral absolutes except their own opinion, are accusing the holy and just God – who as Creator has every right to punish sin – of being immoral,” Ham said. “But how do they define immoral? Well, the only way to do that is to appeal to moral absolutes – which are found in God’s Word.”
Tri-State Freethinkers President Jim Helton called the Genesis account of the flood a myth, and describes the Ark Encounter as “immoral and highly inappropriate as family entertainment.” A $500 donation will garner donors a personal image on a billboard, depicting them looking up at the ark as they drown, a predicament Helton termed an “honor.”
“We want to raise enough money to put up billboards all over the area to let people be aware of how horrible this story in the Bible actually is. The more money we get, the more billboards we can put up in all different areas,” Helton said in video at Indiegogo. “In addition too, we want to do a counter protest on their opening day, throw a huge party and invite all the free thinkers and atheists to come from all over and show support for reason and logic and not superstition and myths.”
Three donors have paid enough to be depicted drowning, according to the Indiegogo page.
Among the many Ark Encounter supporters, Commonwealth Policy Center director Richard Nelson said the atheists’ efforts are only providing free advertising for the museum and park.
“Atheists exegeting Bible stories are bound to miss major points,” Nelson wrote in the April 8 Lexington Herald-Leader. “Of all the things to protest as immoral in our day, it is wildly off-target to pick on a Bible story meant to teach what happens to people when they become immoral.
“It is no less ironic that the Tri-State Atheists are imposing their concept of morality from a worldview that is bereft of moral absolutes,” Nelson said.
At least one secular radio host who has supported Tri-State Freethinkers in other actions, Ham noted, is opposed to the billboard campaign.
I-Heart Radio’s Scott Sloan, broadcast on Scott Sloan in Demand in Cincinnati, has called the billboard campaign “petty.”
The Ark Encounter is a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark with 140,000 square feet of exhibit space inside, and flanked by a 1,500-seat restaurant, a lodge, a small zoo and other amenities.
AiG endured a five-year court battle to receive a Kentucky performance-based tax incentive rebate that could amount to $18.25 million. The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority approved April 25th the incentive that allows developers of certain tourism projects to recover up to 25 percent of the project’s development costs over a 10-year span, based on sales taxes paid by attendees.
Ham hopes the ark and upcoming phases of the biblical theme park, including a World City, a Tower of Babel and a First Century Village, will spur interest in the Bible and encourage many to accept the Gospel.
“The secularists have been trying to shut down people talking about the Bible, talking about Christianity,” Ham has said. “[AiG wants] to do something that will impact the public with the Christian message, in other words, get them talking about it, and the ark certainly will.
“From what our research indicates, up to 2 million people a year could come to this,” he said. “I think it will be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of our era. I don’t think there’s any other Christian attraction like this ... that would impact that many people.”
Ticket information is available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)


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Ark Encounter gets tax incentive up to $18.25M
AiG wins court battle for Kentucky tax incentive
Ham-on-Nye debate pits atheists, creationists

4/29/2016 11:32:03 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Anglican rift over same-sex marriage widens

April 29 2016 by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service

Conservative Anglicans reiterated their frustration with the U.K.-based Anglican Communion over the growing divide on same-sex marriage.
Six primates with the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), an organization representing archbishops and their provinces around the world, met April 18-21 in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the group’s future and its ongoing response to the January meeting of Anglican bishops in Canterbury, England.
“We went to Canterbury out of a desire for unity,” the GAFCON primates wrote in a statement issued after the meeting. “In our hearts we desire to see the tear in the fabric of the communion mended. The sanctions passed at that meeting were the mildest possible rebuke to only the worst of the offenders, but they were one step in the right direction. Regrettably, these sanctions have not been upheld. This is disappointing, but sadly not surprising.”
During the Canterbury meeting, the Anglican Communion voted to sanction The Episcopal Church for violations of institutional protocol instead of a lapse in scriptural fidelity. The U.S.-based province voted last year to change its canon on marriage to accommodate same-sex unions.
The conservative members of the communion wanted to see stronger actions that would bring the U.S. church back to “the plain teaching of scripture” in relation to marriage.
“Within hours of the meeting’s end the public responses from many bishops, clergy, and lay people of The Episcopal Church made it clear that they did not desire to share the same journey,” the GAFCON primates wrote. “The biblical call to repentance is a call to make a 180 degree turn. It grieves us that many in The Episcopal Church have again rejected this call. While we desire to walk together, until there is true repentance, the reality is that they are deliberately walking away from the Anglican Communion and the authority of scripture at a distance that continues to increase.”
After the Canterbury meeting, Michael Curry, archbishop of The Episcopal Church, offered no apology for his province’s actions, suggesting instead it would lead the Anglican Communion toward a more “welcoming” position on same-sex marriage and sexuality.
“And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a church and a communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people,” he said.
The rift in the Anglican Communion over sexuality and fidelity to scripture has been growing for years. While more liberal branches of the church, including groups in the United States and Canada, have moved toward embracing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the majority of the denomination, centered in Africa, has remained steadfast in its devotion to biblical orthodoxy. A growing number of conservative U.S. churches have separated from The Episcopal Church and aligned themselves with the African province.
In the statement issued after their meeting in Nairobi, the GAFCON primates pledged to continue working toward unity but hinted an official split could be around the corner.
“We are of one mind that the future of the Anglican Communion does not lay with manipulations, compromises, legal loopholes, or the presentation of half-truths; the future of our Communion lies in humble obedience to the truth of the Word of God written,” they wrote. “What others have failed to do, GAFCON is doing: enabling global fellowship and godly order, united by biblical faithfulness. This unity has provided us with great energy to continue to work for the renewal of the Anglican Communion.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for World News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine at based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)


Related Story:

Episcopal Church censured for gay marriage stance

4/29/2016 11:23:27 AM by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

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