Displaying items by tag: Missions http://baptistnews.com Sun, 03 May 2015 23:01:56 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Baltimore Southern Baptists respond to unrest with prayer, service http://baptistnews.com/ministry/congregations/item/30042-baltimore-southern-baptists-respond-to-unrest-with-prayer-service http://baptistnews.com/ministry/congregations/item/30042-baltimore-southern-baptists-respond-to-unrest-with-prayer-service NAMB church planters see service opportunities in Baltimore as their moment to shine.

By Bob Allen

Southern Baptist churches planters in Baltimore say they weren’t surprised when peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray turned violent, because they have witnessed firsthand the conditions breeding anger among the city’s African-American youth.

“I want you to know how deeply concerned we are about the city of Baltimore,” Will McRaney, executive missional strategist of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network said in a video message. “Our churches are rallying in support. We’ve been praying for the city for some time, so it’s really not surprising to us that we’re encountering this level of evil.”

joel kurzJoel Kurz, a church planter who moved to Baltimore in 2008 to launch the Garden Church, which officially constituted in 2012, said he was struck by the divide in the neighborhood where the church’s core group began in a discussion group on life and spirituality at a brew pub.

“We saw there was this huge divide that existed basically between black and white,” Kurz said during a panel discussion on racial reconciliation at an April 25 Unplugged 2015 conference at Freedom Church Baltimore. “Unfortunately in Baltimore, that also looks like rich and poor, which is part of our problem in the city.”

Freedom Church Pastor Michael Crawford, church-multiplication strategist for Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, also known as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, was on his way to a conference when fires, looting and arson erupted in the hours after the April 27 funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries while in police custody.

“Satan wants our city, and he can’t have it,” Crawford said in a video message posted online. “I was in the airport on my way to a network meeting in Florida, and I can’t leave. We were born for this hour, and we’re going to fight. This the right way, on our knees.”

Freedom Church, a multi-racial church plant that meets in property that reverted to the Baltimore Baptist Association when the former Hazelwood Baptist Church dissolved, is one of a number church re-starts in Baltimore supported through Send North America, part of a national church-planting strategy of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jesus Our Redeemer Church, located in the Federal Hill neighborhood of South Baltimore, began in February 2014 as a merger of Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church, founded in 1855, and Redeemer City Church, a new church plant that began holding services in Lee Street’s building on Sunday afternoons.

“They had been without a full-time pastor for more than three years,” Brad O’Brien, pastor of Jesus Our Redeemer, said in a video shown at last summer’s SBC annual meeting in Baltimore. “I became convicted that I could not grow a church plant in the building owned by a church that was dying.”

dan hyunThe Village Church, a new church meeting in property that formerly housed the aging membership of Hampden Baptist Church, gathered the night of April 27 to pray for the city. Village Church Pastor Dan Hyun discussed the recent rash of black men killed at the hands of law enforcement at the Unplugged 2015 conference.

“I fear we’re getting to the point where we’re going to see more and more of this happen, and it’s going to shock us less and less,” Hyun said. Asked what he would say to Freddie Gray’s parents, Hyun said, “I would say to them personally that someone cares.”

“We’re a culture that just loves the latest sound bite,” he said. “We love the latest hashtag. So I would just say to his parents: Someone does care. We’re praying. We’re doing what we can.”

Maryland/Delaware Baptists launched Love Baltimore, an online campaign encouraging Southern Baptists to pray and donate money to help restore and rebuild the community.

“There are some deep-seated needs that exist there,” McRaney said. We’re trying to express our love for the city in practical ways and with the gospel of Jesus Christ, both of which are very important.”

“This is the reason we exist — for times like this,” McRaney said. “Not just the planting of churches and the caring for pastors and equipping them, but it's times like this when can pull together and see God's Kingdom advance in the midst of some difficulties and challenges the city is facing.”

michael crawfordCrawford said a lot of people are wondering what they can do to help Baltimore recover.

“The first thing is, you can really pray — not Facebook that you’re praying, not Twitter that you’re praying, not have a sentiment that you’re praying, but like really pray,” he said in a video message. “We believe that if we the people of God call on God that he will heal our land.”

“The second way you can help is in not being divided,” he said. “Most of us probably need to get off of Twitter and Facebook and get on our faces, and be careful of the potential divisive rhetoric.”

Crawford said another way to help is through financial gifts.

“Long after the cameras and the SWAT teams and the police are gone, the people will still be here and we need to rebuild, and the church needs to drive the bus and not sit on the side and watch it pass by,” he said. “So we need your prayers and we need your resources.”

“The last thing that some of you may need to do is you may actually need to get on a bus or in your car or on a plane and come join a local church, like for good,” Crawford appealed. “This could be a call for some of you to move permanently to Baltimore; permanently plant your roots like many of us have done, and fall in love with a city that Jesus is deeply in love with.”

“We believe that God is great,” Crawford said. “We believe that God is doing great things, and there is an opportunity, a window of a lifetime, for us to step into and let our light shine. My invitation to you is to respond to that window. We’ve got one chance to do this.  Let’s do this.”

]]>
NAMB church planters see service opportunities in Baltimore as their moment to shine.

By Bob Allen

Southern Baptist churches planters in Baltimore say they weren’t surprised when peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray turned violent, because they have witnessed firsthand the conditions breeding anger among the city’s African-American youth.

“I want you to know how deeply concerned we are about the city of Baltimore,” Will McRaney, executive missional strategist of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network said in a video message. “Our churches are rallying in support. We’ve been praying for the city for some time, so it’s really not surprising to us that we’re encountering this level of evil.”

joel kurzJoel Kurz, a church planter who moved to Baltimore in 2008 to launch the Garden Church, which officially constituted in 2012, said he was struck by the divide in the neighborhood where the church’s core group began in a discussion group on life and spirituality at a brew pub.

“We saw there was this huge divide that existed basically between black and white,” Kurz said during a panel discussion on racial reconciliation at an April 25 Unplugged 2015 conference at Freedom Church Baltimore. “Unfortunately in Baltimore, that also looks like rich and poor, which is part of our problem in the city.”

Freedom Church Pastor Michael Crawford, church-multiplication strategist for Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, also known as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, was on his way to a conference when fires, looting and arson erupted in the hours after the April 27 funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries while in police custody.

“Satan wants our city, and he can’t have it,” Crawford said in a video message posted online. “I was in the airport on my way to a network meeting in Florida, and I can’t leave. We were born for this hour, and we’re going to fight. This the right way, on our knees.”

Freedom Church, a multi-racial church plant that meets in property that reverted to the Baltimore Baptist Association when the former Hazelwood Baptist Church dissolved, is one of a number church re-starts in Baltimore supported through Send North America, part of a national church-planting strategy of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jesus Our Redeemer Church, located in the Federal Hill neighborhood of South Baltimore, began in February 2014 as a merger of Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church, founded in 1855, and Redeemer City Church, a new church plant that began holding services in Lee Street’s building on Sunday afternoons.

“They had been without a full-time pastor for more than three years,” Brad O’Brien, pastor of Jesus Our Redeemer, said in a video shown at last summer’s SBC annual meeting in Baltimore. “I became convicted that I could not grow a church plant in the building owned by a church that was dying.”

dan hyunThe Village Church, a new church meeting in property that formerly housed the aging membership of Hampden Baptist Church, gathered the night of April 27 to pray for the city. Village Church Pastor Dan Hyun discussed the recent rash of black men killed at the hands of law enforcement at the Unplugged 2015 conference.

“I fear we’re getting to the point where we’re going to see more and more of this happen, and it’s going to shock us less and less,” Hyun said. Asked what he would say to Freddie Gray’s parents, Hyun said, “I would say to them personally that someone cares.”

“We’re a culture that just loves the latest sound bite,” he said. “We love the latest hashtag. So I would just say to his parents: Someone does care. We’re praying. We’re doing what we can.”

Maryland/Delaware Baptists launched Love Baltimore, an online campaign encouraging Southern Baptists to pray and donate money to help restore and rebuild the community.

“There are some deep-seated needs that exist there,” McRaney said. We’re trying to express our love for the city in practical ways and with the gospel of Jesus Christ, both of which are very important.”

“This is the reason we exist — for times like this,” McRaney said. “Not just the planting of churches and the caring for pastors and equipping them, but it's times like this when can pull together and see God's Kingdom advance in the midst of some difficulties and challenges the city is facing.”

michael crawfordCrawford said a lot of people are wondering what they can do to help Baltimore recover.

“The first thing is, you can really pray — not Facebook that you’re praying, not Twitter that you’re praying, not have a sentiment that you’re praying, but like really pray,” he said in a video message. “We believe that if we the people of God call on God that he will heal our land.”

“The second way you can help is in not being divided,” he said. “Most of us probably need to get off of Twitter and Facebook and get on our faces, and be careful of the potential divisive rhetoric.”

Crawford said another way to help is through financial gifts.

“Long after the cameras and the SWAT teams and the police are gone, the people will still be here and we need to rebuild, and the church needs to drive the bus and not sit on the side and watch it pass by,” he said. “So we need your prayers and we need your resources.”

“The last thing that some of you may need to do is you may actually need to get on a bus or in your car or on a plane and come join a local church, like for good,” Crawford appealed. “This could be a call for some of you to move permanently to Baltimore; permanently plant your roots like many of us have done, and fall in love with a city that Jesus is deeply in love with.”

“We believe that God is great,” Crawford said. “We believe that God is doing great things, and there is an opportunity, a window of a lifetime, for us to step into and let our light shine. My invitation to you is to respond to that window. We’ve got one chance to do this.  Let’s do this.”

]]>
Bob Allen Congregations Thu, 30 Apr 2015 12:30:36 -0400
Volunteering, missions best when not serving as Christian vacations, ministers say http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29990-volunteering-missions-best-when-not-serving-as-christian-vacations-ministers-say http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29990-volunteering-missions-best-when-not-serving-as-christian-vacations-ministers-say A volunteer prepares to serve meals to the needy in 2014. Experts say volunteering provides blessings to all involved — including the volunteer. (Creative Commons photo by St. Joseph’s University)
Some Baptist leaders are concerned that Christians and churches no longer collaborate on missions and other volunteer projects as they did in the past.

By Brian Kaylor

Greg Morrow, pastor of First Baptist Church of California, Mo., is passionate about volunteering for missions.

He leads his church on mission trips and is a volunteer leader for a parachurch organization that mobilizes people to give time to mission endeavors.

“Volunteers represent a great resource for kingdom advancement,” Morrow said.

He noted how volunteering greatly expands the number of people who can participate beyond the much smaller number of paid mission workers.

Morrow has watched as mission trips — especially international ones — helped not only those being served but also the volunteers from his church.

“The investment of our lives into the lives of other people almost always brings changes,” he said. “It opens people up to a greater interest in reaching their community — people come back home with a greater sensitivity to the community that exists around them and how we can reach them as well.”

Organizations are keenly aware of the importance played by volunteers, said John Bailey, president/CEO of Windermere Baptist Conference Center.

painterguy

“Windermere could not do everything it needs to do without the help of volunteers,” he said. “It’s a beautiful setting, it’s a peaceful setting, but it takes a lot to maintain.”

Recent figures show 1,050 volunteers donated 11,181 hours in one year at Windermere. Economic valuation of those hours is estimated at about $21.17 an hour. For Windermere, that equals nearly $250,000 in just one year, Bailey said.

“That’s a tremendous thing,” he added. “It’s amazing the impact for the kingdom that volunteers bring.”

Bailey, too, noted that volunteering should be beneficial to participants and those who are served. Ministries that recruit volunteers hope to create that “magical moment when volunteer service becomes meaningful” for volunteers, he said.

“It becomes transformational in their lives,” he added. “That’s what we all want.”

Younger generations

An Associated Press-GfK poll in December found Americans under 30 rate volunteering as “a very important obligation” more than do older Americans. That finding stood in stark contrast to the under-30 rating of five other civic duties — such as voting or serving on jury duty — as less important than do older individuals.

Data the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released in February found Americans in the 35-44 age range volunteer at the highest rate. Overall, women volunteer at higher rates than men.

Labor statistics also show religious organizations as the most common recipients of volunteer hours. People 65 and older are much more likely to volunteer for religious organizations than are younger individuals.

While differences between generations are not “black and white,” Dwight Stinnett, executive minister of the Great Rivers Region of the American Baptist Churches USA, sees overall trends.

FoodPantry

“The older generations’ vision of missions really was influenced by overseas missions and primarily with construction and humanitarian concerns,” he said. “Younger generations are more likely to do nearby missions.”

Bailey similarly sees generational differences in focus. “The younger generations want to be seen as a knowledge worker instead of just a skill worker,” he said.

Younger generations “want a cause” and when they find it they will be passionate, Stinnett said.

Bailey worries that a skills gap may develop when older individuals are no longer able to volunteer while younger generations are more likely to pay people to fix things than do it themselves.

The “older generation not only will volunteer and donate their time, but they will donate their treasures as well,” he said.

Improvement

It is important that a volunteer “really understands the need to respond to needs, rather than create needs,” Morrow said.

He also works with and serves as volunteer chief operations officer of the Future Leadership Foundation. Founded in 2003, FLF volunteers train church leaders in several countries. FLF also coaches U.S. churches on developing international missions.

FLF leaders “respond to requests for assistance and then shape ourselves to meet that need,” he said. He cautions against approaches that instead “use the mission field to meet your needs.”

Stinnett emphasized the importance of not letting mission trips “denigrate to Christian vacations or voyeurism.”

If people go home and “reflect appropriately, it expands their vision of the world and helps them see needs around their own neighborhood,” he said.

“Just doing a mission trip does not change that,” he said. “People have to have some directed reflection after that.”

He urged volunteers to consider what God taught them, how they saw God work and the needs in their own community. Because of missions' transforming potential, Bailey hopes it can return to the center of Baptist life.

“Missions work is so fractious now,” he said. “The old Baptist challenge was we’re better together. Missions work used to be what rallied a divergent church field together. I just don’t think we’re collaborating together as well as we did in the past.”

]]>
A volunteer prepares to serve meals to the needy in 2014. Experts say volunteering provides blessings to all involved — including the volunteer. (Creative Commons photo by St. Joseph’s University)
Some Baptist leaders are concerned that Christians and churches no longer collaborate on missions and other volunteer projects as they did in the past.

By Brian Kaylor

Greg Morrow, pastor of First Baptist Church of California, Mo., is passionate about volunteering for missions.

He leads his church on mission trips and is a volunteer leader for a parachurch organization that mobilizes people to give time to mission endeavors.

“Volunteers represent a great resource for kingdom advancement,” Morrow said.

He noted how volunteering greatly expands the number of people who can participate beyond the much smaller number of paid mission workers.

Morrow has watched as mission trips — especially international ones — helped not only those being served but also the volunteers from his church.

“The investment of our lives into the lives of other people almost always brings changes,” he said. “It opens people up to a greater interest in reaching their community — people come back home with a greater sensitivity to the community that exists around them and how we can reach them as well.”

Organizations are keenly aware of the importance played by volunteers, said John Bailey, president/CEO of Windermere Baptist Conference Center.

painterguy

“Windermere could not do everything it needs to do without the help of volunteers,” he said. “It’s a beautiful setting, it’s a peaceful setting, but it takes a lot to maintain.”

Recent figures show 1,050 volunteers donated 11,181 hours in one year at Windermere. Economic valuation of those hours is estimated at about $21.17 an hour. For Windermere, that equals nearly $250,000 in just one year, Bailey said.

“That’s a tremendous thing,” he added. “It’s amazing the impact for the kingdom that volunteers bring.”

Bailey, too, noted that volunteering should be beneficial to participants and those who are served. Ministries that recruit volunteers hope to create that “magical moment when volunteer service becomes meaningful” for volunteers, he said.

“It becomes transformational in their lives,” he added. “That’s what we all want.”

Younger generations

An Associated Press-GfK poll in December found Americans under 30 rate volunteering as “a very important obligation” more than do older Americans. That finding stood in stark contrast to the under-30 rating of five other civic duties — such as voting or serving on jury duty — as less important than do older individuals.

Data the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released in February found Americans in the 35-44 age range volunteer at the highest rate. Overall, women volunteer at higher rates than men.

Labor statistics also show religious organizations as the most common recipients of volunteer hours. People 65 and older are much more likely to volunteer for religious organizations than are younger individuals.

While differences between generations are not “black and white,” Dwight Stinnett, executive minister of the Great Rivers Region of the American Baptist Churches USA, sees overall trends.

FoodPantry

“The older generations’ vision of missions really was influenced by overseas missions and primarily with construction and humanitarian concerns,” he said. “Younger generations are more likely to do nearby missions.”

Bailey similarly sees generational differences in focus. “The younger generations want to be seen as a knowledge worker instead of just a skill worker,” he said.

Younger generations “want a cause” and when they find it they will be passionate, Stinnett said.

Bailey worries that a skills gap may develop when older individuals are no longer able to volunteer while younger generations are more likely to pay people to fix things than do it themselves.

The “older generation not only will volunteer and donate their time, but they will donate their treasures as well,” he said.

Improvement

It is important that a volunteer “really understands the need to respond to needs, rather than create needs,” Morrow said.

He also works with and serves as volunteer chief operations officer of the Future Leadership Foundation. Founded in 2003, FLF volunteers train church leaders in several countries. FLF also coaches U.S. churches on developing international missions.

FLF leaders “respond to requests for assistance and then shape ourselves to meet that need,” he said. He cautions against approaches that instead “use the mission field to meet your needs.”

Stinnett emphasized the importance of not letting mission trips “denigrate to Christian vacations or voyeurism.”

If people go home and “reflect appropriately, it expands their vision of the world and helps them see needs around their own neighborhood,” he said.

“Just doing a mission trip does not change that,” he said. “People have to have some directed reflection after that.”

He urged volunteers to consider what God taught them, how they saw God work and the needs in their own community. Because of missions' transforming potential, Bailey hopes it can return to the center of Baptist life.

“Missions work is so fractious now,” he said. “The old Baptist challenge was we’re better together. Missions work used to be what rallied a divergent church field together. I just don’t think we’re collaborating together as well as we did in the past.”

]]>
Brian Kaylor Missions Tue, 14 Apr 2015 15:45:00 -0400
Baptist nursing students learn ropes on Ethiopia medical mission http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29978-baptist-nursing-students-learn-ropes-on-ethiopia-medical-mission http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29978-baptist-nursing-students-learn-ropes-on-ethiopia-medical-mission Emily Nichols and Riya Thenayan examine a patient outside the clinic. (Photos courtesy of Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing)
A group from Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing ventured to Africa to hone skills they will need as medical missionaries.

By Ken Camp

Student nurses grow accustomed to signs prohibiting firearms and other weapons on hospital property. So, treating spear-carrying tribesmen at a remote clinic on the banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia required mental adjustment for five Baylor University graduate students and their faculty sponsor.

“You get used to it,” said Lori Spies, family nurse practitioner and missions coordinator at Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing.

Students also learned to “get used to” recognizing symptoms of malaria and malnutrition — as well as treating patients afflicted with parasites and amoebas — during their month-long medical mission to Ethiopia, she noted. 

Spies, who attends Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, has traveled to Africa about 20 times since 2005, and she has led about a dozen student mission trips. 

baylor ethiopia waiting600

“These are students who have expressed an interest in working on the mission field,” she said of her charges. Students worked alongside career missionaries and local evangelists, who told Bible stories and shared the gospel with people who waited in line at clinics.

The student nurses participated in health and hygiene education, conducted home visits, and learned to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions rarely seen in the United States.

Students saw about 100 patients daily at a high-volume clinic in Langano, a predominantly Muslim area more than three hours south of Addis Ababa. Kim Scheel, an alum of Baylor’s nursing school and career missionary with the Serving in Mission organization, started the Bishaan Jireenya —Water of Life — Clinic 20 years ago.

They also worked at Makki, about 500 miles south of Addis Ababa, among the Mursi people.

“It’s a very remote area, but there is a school planted there to provide Christian education. We were able to do school physicals for the little ones,” Spies said.

Mursi tribesmen who have become Christians launched an outreach to the even more remote Kwegu people in the Lower Omo Valley, and the student nurses helped support that effort by offering medical care in a tent they pitched along the riverbank.

“It was a steep bank, and there were crocodiles in the river,” Spies said. “Needless to say, there was no wading in that river.”

The student nurses treated multiple cases of skin diseases and malaria among the isolated Kwegu, who number only about 1,000 people. 

“It was a profound spiritual experience, seeing meaningful outreach led by new believers, offering ministry to unbelievers,” Spies said.

Students also had the satisfaction of knowing their training made a life-changing difference. 

baylor ethiopia baldwin425

“They caught some hard-to-diagnose things and saved some lives,” Spies said.

One small child — who was not running a fever or crying — was septic after a bout with pneumonia. A woman who had sustained significant blood loss when giving birth at home was dehydrated and anemic.

Working alongside a missionary physician, they also helped deliver six babies during their time in Ethiopia.

“I can see the students becoming wonderful family nurse practitioners,” Spies said.

In addition to leading student trips to Ethiopia, she also leads annual professional development workshops in Uganda. Through Baylor’s partnership with Northrise University in Zambia, she anticipates additional mission opportunities to develop.

“I feel very blessed,” Spies said. “I believe I am fulfilling God’s calling on my life.”

]]>
Emily Nichols and Riya Thenayan examine a patient outside the clinic. (Photos courtesy of Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing)
A group from Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing ventured to Africa to hone skills they will need as medical missionaries.

By Ken Camp

Student nurses grow accustomed to signs prohibiting firearms and other weapons on hospital property. So, treating spear-carrying tribesmen at a remote clinic on the banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia required mental adjustment for five Baylor University graduate students and their faculty sponsor.

“You get used to it,” said Lori Spies, family nurse practitioner and missions coordinator at Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing.

Students also learned to “get used to” recognizing symptoms of malaria and malnutrition — as well as treating patients afflicted with parasites and amoebas — during their month-long medical mission to Ethiopia, she noted. 

Spies, who attends Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, has traveled to Africa about 20 times since 2005, and she has led about a dozen student mission trips. 

baylor ethiopia waiting600

“These are students who have expressed an interest in working on the mission field,” she said of her charges. Students worked alongside career missionaries and local evangelists, who told Bible stories and shared the gospel with people who waited in line at clinics.

The student nurses participated in health and hygiene education, conducted home visits, and learned to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions rarely seen in the United States.

Students saw about 100 patients daily at a high-volume clinic in Langano, a predominantly Muslim area more than three hours south of Addis Ababa. Kim Scheel, an alum of Baylor’s nursing school and career missionary with the Serving in Mission organization, started the Bishaan Jireenya —Water of Life — Clinic 20 years ago.

They also worked at Makki, about 500 miles south of Addis Ababa, among the Mursi people.

“It’s a very remote area, but there is a school planted there to provide Christian education. We were able to do school physicals for the little ones,” Spies said.

Mursi tribesmen who have become Christians launched an outreach to the even more remote Kwegu people in the Lower Omo Valley, and the student nurses helped support that effort by offering medical care in a tent they pitched along the riverbank.

“It was a steep bank, and there were crocodiles in the river,” Spies said. “Needless to say, there was no wading in that river.”

The student nurses treated multiple cases of skin diseases and malaria among the isolated Kwegu, who number only about 1,000 people. 

“It was a profound spiritual experience, seeing meaningful outreach led by new believers, offering ministry to unbelievers,” Spies said.

Students also had the satisfaction of knowing their training made a life-changing difference. 

baylor ethiopia baldwin425

“They caught some hard-to-diagnose things and saved some lives,” Spies said.

One small child — who was not running a fever or crying — was septic after a bout with pneumonia. A woman who had sustained significant blood loss when giving birth at home was dehydrated and anemic.

Working alongside a missionary physician, they also helped deliver six babies during their time in Ethiopia.

“I can see the students becoming wonderful family nurse practitioners,” Spies said.

In addition to leading student trips to Ethiopia, she also leads annual professional development workshops in Uganda. Through Baylor’s partnership with Northrise University in Zambia, she anticipates additional mission opportunities to develop.

“I feel very blessed,” Spies said. “I believe I am fulfilling God’s calling on my life.”

]]>
Ken Camp Missions Thu, 09 Apr 2015 06:00:00 -0400
Baptists, Methodists seek to overcome differences to minister together http://baptistnews.com/ministry/item/29865-baptists-methodists-seek-overcoming-differences-to-minister-together http://baptistnews.com/ministry/item/29865-baptists-methodists-seek-overcoming-differences-to-minister-together Curtis Freeman (front row, third from right) with a group of Baptists and Methodists meeting in Singapore in February. (BWA photo)
A Baptist World Alliance group met for the second of five meetings in an effort to overcome differences that bar Baptists and Methodists from more effective mission together.

By Jeff Brumley

Nowadays, Baptists and Methodists seem the least likely to become entangled in theological disputes or battles over turf and members. Pulpit swaps and shared downtown ministries are increasingly common between them.

But that was not always the case. Historically, the two traditions were often bitter rivals in cities and rural communities across the nation, said Bill Leonard, professor of Baptist studies and church history at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

“Their theological differences have been very pronounced,” Leonard said, adding the divisions go back to the nation’s founding. “They used to have debates on the frontier over infant baptism, falling from grace and, in the case of Calvinistic Baptists, whether Christ’s death on the cross was only for the elect.”

But a group of modern-day Baptist and Methodist clergy and theologians has been hard at work to heal the wounds of the past in order to forge friendships in the present. Their motivation is Scripture’s demand for Christian unity.

“Jesus prayed that his disciple community — the church — would be one so the world would know that the Father had sent the Son into the world,” said Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology and Baptist studies and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School.

So the mission of the church is contingent on the unity of the church, Freeman said.

“Our divisions actually become impediments to the mission of the church,” he said. “That is why we need this.”

Ongoing dialogue

“This” is the bilateral dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and the World Methodist Council. Freeman is co-chair of the 14-member group that includes seven Baptists.

It was the group’s second meeting with three more to go in as many years. They’ve met in locations around the world. The goal is to finalize a document of agreements and differences in the fifth year.

The theme of the February meeting in Singapore was “faith confessed and remembered.” Freeman said it served as a starting point for conversations aimed at discovering commonalities between the two traditions.

“We talked a lot about how we understand the faith — what is the faith to you, what do you mean when you say ‘Christian faith,’” he said.

curtisfreemanpic

It was interesting for the Baptist contingent to hear how important it is to the Methodists that John Wesley founded their movement. Their language describing Christianity also was very different from that used by Baptists.

“For them it was much more of an experiential religion,” Freeman said.

In addition to the need for greater understanding between Baptists and Methodists, participants explored the mutual exchange of gifts possible between the two traditions.

Often the values are shared but expressed in different ways.

“Methodists have put a lot of influence historically on … the call to holiness in life,” Freeman said. “In Baptist life that’s been there, but we have more of an emphasis on missions.”

Participants also discussed increased participation on a common witness, and how they might find more ways to work together in regions around the world.

‘We softened our rhetoric’

Doing that means identifying obstacles, and one of the major ones remains the baptizing of infants by Methodists. Some Baptists through the ages have equated the practice with witchcraft, idolatry and prostitution, Freeman said.

Such extreme views, even if softened, are a bar to cooperation between Baptists and Methodists, he said.

“If Baptists don’t look at Methodists as able to make disciples and baptize and teach them, they really can’t do missions,” he said.

But there wasn’t any of that kind of talk — in either direction — in Singapore, Freeman said.

“We just softened our rhetoric with each other.”

And they must because the importance of coming together is vital for Baptists committed to the mission of God in the world, Freeman said.

His prayer is that Baptists and Methodists will no longer see each other as competitors in a shrinking market but as partners in a common mission.

“Unless we somehow tend to that question of unity, we are not going to be successful in that mission,” he said.

‘Working together’

It would be a remarkable achievement given where the two traditions started out.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Baptists and Methodists were two of the smallest Protestant groups in the United States. By 1830, however, they were the two biggest.

“Largely because of their parallel-but-distinct approach to revivals and religious awakenings,” Leonard said.

That put them on a collision course for converts, he said, with both groups known for interrupting each others’ revival events.

The divisions continued into the 20th century as Methodists became identified with the Mainline movement.

“There was a period when Baptists would often criticize Methodists because they had given up on evangelism and had gone liberal,” Leonard said. “That was not an infrequent criticism of Methodists in the South when I was growing up in the ’60s.”

bill.leonard

And while that is all but gone from the discussion, Leonard said baptism is an ongoing sticking point.

Where it is played out is in the membership policies of many Baptist churches which require Methodists and others baptized as infants to be re-baptized.

“That may be in many contexts the most continuing divisive issue,” he said.

But many progressive Baptists have addressed the issue by adopting open baptism policies.

There are other positive signs, including an ecumenical movement centered around common ministries in at-risk communities.

“Baptists and Methodists are working together consistently now in most towns and cities,” Leonard said.

]]>
Curtis Freeman (front row, third from right) with a group of Baptists and Methodists meeting in Singapore in February. (BWA photo)
A Baptist World Alliance group met for the second of five meetings in an effort to overcome differences that bar Baptists and Methodists from more effective mission together.

By Jeff Brumley

Nowadays, Baptists and Methodists seem the least likely to become entangled in theological disputes or battles over turf and members. Pulpit swaps and shared downtown ministries are increasingly common between them.

But that was not always the case. Historically, the two traditions were often bitter rivals in cities and rural communities across the nation, said Bill Leonard, professor of Baptist studies and church history at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

“Their theological differences have been very pronounced,” Leonard said, adding the divisions go back to the nation’s founding. “They used to have debates on the frontier over infant baptism, falling from grace and, in the case of Calvinistic Baptists, whether Christ’s death on the cross was only for the elect.”

But a group of modern-day Baptist and Methodist clergy and theologians has been hard at work to heal the wounds of the past in order to forge friendships in the present. Their motivation is Scripture’s demand for Christian unity.

“Jesus prayed that his disciple community — the church — would be one so the world would know that the Father had sent the Son into the world,” said Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology and Baptist studies and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School.

So the mission of the church is contingent on the unity of the church, Freeman said.

“Our divisions actually become impediments to the mission of the church,” he said. “That is why we need this.”

Ongoing dialogue

“This” is the bilateral dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and the World Methodist Council. Freeman is co-chair of the 14-member group that includes seven Baptists.

It was the group’s second meeting with three more to go in as many years. They’ve met in locations around the world. The goal is to finalize a document of agreements and differences in the fifth year.

The theme of the February meeting in Singapore was “faith confessed and remembered.” Freeman said it served as a starting point for conversations aimed at discovering commonalities between the two traditions.

“We talked a lot about how we understand the faith — what is the faith to you, what do you mean when you say ‘Christian faith,’” he said.

curtisfreemanpic

It was interesting for the Baptist contingent to hear how important it is to the Methodists that John Wesley founded their movement. Their language describing Christianity also was very different from that used by Baptists.

“For them it was much more of an experiential religion,” Freeman said.

In addition to the need for greater understanding between Baptists and Methodists, participants explored the mutual exchange of gifts possible between the two traditions.

Often the values are shared but expressed in different ways.

“Methodists have put a lot of influence historically on … the call to holiness in life,” Freeman said. “In Baptist life that’s been there, but we have more of an emphasis on missions.”

Participants also discussed increased participation on a common witness, and how they might find more ways to work together in regions around the world.

‘We softened our rhetoric’

Doing that means identifying obstacles, and one of the major ones remains the baptizing of infants by Methodists. Some Baptists through the ages have equated the practice with witchcraft, idolatry and prostitution, Freeman said.

Such extreme views, even if softened, are a bar to cooperation between Baptists and Methodists, he said.

“If Baptists don’t look at Methodists as able to make disciples and baptize and teach them, they really can’t do missions,” he said.

But there wasn’t any of that kind of talk — in either direction — in Singapore, Freeman said.

“We just softened our rhetoric with each other.”

And they must because the importance of coming together is vital for Baptists committed to the mission of God in the world, Freeman said.

His prayer is that Baptists and Methodists will no longer see each other as competitors in a shrinking market but as partners in a common mission.

“Unless we somehow tend to that question of unity, we are not going to be successful in that mission,” he said.

‘Working together’

It would be a remarkable achievement given where the two traditions started out.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Baptists and Methodists were two of the smallest Protestant groups in the United States. By 1830, however, they were the two biggest.

“Largely because of their parallel-but-distinct approach to revivals and religious awakenings,” Leonard said.

That put them on a collision course for converts, he said, with both groups known for interrupting each others’ revival events.

The divisions continued into the 20th century as Methodists became identified with the Mainline movement.

“There was a period when Baptists would often criticize Methodists because they had given up on evangelism and had gone liberal,” Leonard said. “That was not an infrequent criticism of Methodists in the South when I was growing up in the ’60s.”

bill.leonard

And while that is all but gone from the discussion, Leonard said baptism is an ongoing sticking point.

Where it is played out is in the membership policies of many Baptist churches which require Methodists and others baptized as infants to be re-baptized.

“That may be in many contexts the most continuing divisive issue,” he said.

But many progressive Baptists have addressed the issue by adopting open baptism policies.

There are other positive signs, including an ecumenical movement centered around common ministries in at-risk communities.

“Baptists and Methodists are working together consistently now in most towns and cities,” Leonard said.

]]>
Jeff Brumley Ministry Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:00:00 -0500
All politics is local? Forget it. http://baptistnews.com/opinion/columns/item/29860-all-politics-is-local-forget-it http://baptistnews.com/opinion/columns/item/29860-all-politics-is-local-forget-it All politics is global. And so is all of congregational life.

By John Chandler

Chandler John ColumnDuring Singapore’s recent World Cities Summit, National Geographic’s Jeremy Bentham opined on some of the megatrends of ascending urban migration. Noting that the United Nations projects that the world’s population will grow from roughly seven billion today to nine billion by 2050 (the equivalent of 1.4 million people every week), he highlights that the number of people living in cities is expected to rise from 3.6 billion in 2010 to 6.3 billion in the same period. The greatest increases will be in China, India, the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

Bentham’s angle is that many of these burgeoning cities are not yet on our radar. For instance, of China’s largest 130 cities, more than half are still in the early stages of development. Urban planning of the largest cities, then, will be critical for their impact on the entire globe. They will use the vast majority of natural and human resources, and are thus a matter of interest for all of us, whether we live in those cities or not.

Even today, in my current commonwealth of Virginia, two-thirds of the population lives near the axis of Interstate 95 from Washington to Richmond and the Interstate 64 corridor from Richmond to Virginia Beach. What happens in Virginia when population in those areas rises to 80 percent? And, from the vantage point of those of us in communities and churches not in these urban corridors, why should we care and what should we think? I live in Fluvanna County — we have one stop light in our entire county, for heaven’s sake. What does urbanization have to do with me?!

Well, if God so loved the cosmos that he gave his only begotten Son, then it better matter to me. Forget the old saw that “all politics is local” — I have to adjust to the idea that all politics is global. And so is all of congregational life. Unless we view church as a haven and retreat from the world — and I most assuredly think that is far from the worldview of Jesus — then our churches will have to learn to think in terms of how we reach a world very different from ours. Including the world next door. Including cities. Does your congregation have a strategy for reaching large urban areas? This may be the strongest reason for collaborating within a larger denominational tribe in years to come.

What does Fluvanna have to do with D.C.? Turns out, quite a bit.

]]>
All politics is global. And so is all of congregational life.

By John Chandler

Chandler John ColumnDuring Singapore’s recent World Cities Summit, National Geographic’s Jeremy Bentham opined on some of the megatrends of ascending urban migration. Noting that the United Nations projects that the world’s population will grow from roughly seven billion today to nine billion by 2050 (the equivalent of 1.4 million people every week), he highlights that the number of people living in cities is expected to rise from 3.6 billion in 2010 to 6.3 billion in the same period. The greatest increases will be in China, India, the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

Bentham’s angle is that many of these burgeoning cities are not yet on our radar. For instance, of China’s largest 130 cities, more than half are still in the early stages of development. Urban planning of the largest cities, then, will be critical for their impact on the entire globe. They will use the vast majority of natural and human resources, and are thus a matter of interest for all of us, whether we live in those cities or not.

Even today, in my current commonwealth of Virginia, two-thirds of the population lives near the axis of Interstate 95 from Washington to Richmond and the Interstate 64 corridor from Richmond to Virginia Beach. What happens in Virginia when population in those areas rises to 80 percent? And, from the vantage point of those of us in communities and churches not in these urban corridors, why should we care and what should we think? I live in Fluvanna County — we have one stop light in our entire county, for heaven’s sake. What does urbanization have to do with me?!

Well, if God so loved the cosmos that he gave his only begotten Son, then it better matter to me. Forget the old saw that “all politics is local” — I have to adjust to the idea that all politics is global. And so is all of congregational life. Unless we view church as a haven and retreat from the world — and I most assuredly think that is far from the worldview of Jesus — then our churches will have to learn to think in terms of how we reach a world very different from ours. Including the world next door. Including cities. Does your congregation have a strategy for reaching large urban areas? This may be the strongest reason for collaborating within a larger denominational tribe in years to come.

What does Fluvanna have to do with D.C.? Turns out, quite a bit.

]]>
John Chandler Columns Fri, 27 Feb 2015 06:30:07 -0500
Missionary couple brings international mission field to N.C. http://baptistnews.com/ministry/people/item/29755-missionary-couple-brings-international-mission-field-to-nc http://baptistnews.com/ministry/people/item/29755-missionary-couple-brings-international-mission-field-to-nc Marc Wyatt at a World Refugee Day event in Wilmington, N.C., last summer. (Photo courtesy of Marc Wyatt)
Kim and Marc Wyatt are showing congregations how to engage the world in their own communities.

By Jeff Brumley

International mission work is taking on a whole different look — at least the way it’s being practiced by some Baptists in North Carolina.

And yes, that means in North Carolina, not Uganda or Costa Rica or anywhere else overseas.

It began last year with the arrival of Kim and Marc Wyatt, Cooperative Baptist field personnel who specialize in ministering to refugees, immigrants and other internationals by connecting them with local congregations with the desire and capacity to minister to them.

It’s a big shift and a significant one because it turns the concepts of missions on its head, said Larry Hovis, executive coordinator of CBF of North Carolina.

Instead of congregations sending missionaries overseas to serve those in need, the Wyatts are here to show congregations how to do that right in their own communities, Hovis said.

“Their main job is to equip and energize our congregations to engage in the mission,” he said of the couple who are working in Raleigh. “They are here to teach us and empower us and work alongside us and ultimately to give the ministry away.”

Ministry matchmakers

Still, the Wyatts’ approach is one they developed during several years of international mission work.

The native North Carolinians’ first post was in Thailand. Their next post, in Canada where working with international populations in some of Canada’s largest cities clued them into a new way of being missionaries.

“We had a missional conversation about what it means to be a missionary,” Kim Wyatt said.

Essentially it was that they didn’t have to go to the “uttermost parts of the Earth” to minister to those “from the uttermost parts of the Earth,” she said.

The couple saw that “they are also right here and they are our neighbors.”

The Wyatts’ practice in Canada had been to befriend foreigners living in Canada, whether they were academics, students, impoverished refugees or wealthy business executives.

Wyatt3

But they quickly saw they could personally build relationships with a limited number of people. So they started involving local Baptist and other churches.

“I say that I am a matchmaker,” Kim Wyatt said. “I match newly arrived folks … with Christians who have probably lived in the same house for 25 years.”

The experience has been transformative. Local Christians built friendships with people from often-stereotyped cultures, while the internationals dispeled myths about Christians learned in their native countries.

Churches have been able to fulfil the biblical value of hospitality for the foreigner and as a result often find themselves transformed as some internationals join their faith and congregations.

“It has revitalized [those] who welcomed what the refugees brought to their churches,” Kim Wyatt said.

Shifting missions paradigm

And that’s what got Hovis’ attention in North Carolina.

During a sabbatical visit with the Hyatts in 2012, Hovis said he saw how some congregations were rejuvenated by their participation in the Wyatts’ work and wondered “could they do the same thing here [that] they did up there?”

The contexts were similar, he added. Canada achieved an advanced post-Christian culture years before the United States, making the Wyatts' approach especially relevant now.

Also relevant is their approach to doing foreign missions domestically.

Larry-Hovis

The old model saw churches send missionaries overseas, with the missionaries being extensions of a church’s programs, Hovis said.

“We traditionally thought of missionaries as working on our behalf in places where we can’t go,” he said. “And occasionally they would host us on mission trips.”

But that doesn’t work anymore — especially as churches experience membership declines and falter financially.

Immigration, meanwhile, has also changed the picture.

“The mission field has come to us and we need to learn how to engage our mission field,” Hovis said. “We can’t do business the way we’ve always done it.”

‘A whole new consciousness’

The Wyatts say embracing that new concept of mission work also means churches transforming how they conceive of ministry.

Embracing internationals, for example, doesn’t mean inviting them to church for coffee or free clothes.

Instead, it means being willing to build relationships — friendships — with all kinds of people from all kinds of places.

“You must be willing to take your passions and be uncomfortable enough to take risks across cultures,” Kim Wyatt said.

It can also mean being OK with meeting an international who is much wealthier than most members of a church.

In the Research Triangle Park, where the Wyatts are focusing, that is highly likely. In addition to refugees being resettled to the area, there also are three major universities with thousands of foreign-born professors and students.

Finding those people in their communities, Marc Wyatt said, means being open and positioned in order to eventually start meeting those who are lonely or in need.

Offering English lessons is one such way. It also requires churches to have an awareness of existing ministries and agencies who already serve those populations, he said.

“We have to be willing to move outside our programs and outside our buildings,” Marc Wyatt said.

He added that it takes much more than awareness of cultural differences. It’s about embodying hospitality.

“If our churches become aware of how important the welcome is — welcome into my life — they’ll have a whole new consciousness of what it means to be a missional people,” he said.

]]>
Marc Wyatt at a World Refugee Day event in Wilmington, N.C., last summer. (Photo courtesy of Marc Wyatt)
Kim and Marc Wyatt are showing congregations how to engage the world in their own communities.

By Jeff Brumley

International mission work is taking on a whole different look — at least the way it’s being practiced by some Baptists in North Carolina.

And yes, that means in North Carolina, not Uganda or Costa Rica or anywhere else overseas.

It began last year with the arrival of Kim and Marc Wyatt, Cooperative Baptist field personnel who specialize in ministering to refugees, immigrants and other internationals by connecting them with local congregations with the desire and capacity to minister to them.

It’s a big shift and a significant one because it turns the concepts of missions on its head, said Larry Hovis, executive coordinator of CBF of North Carolina.

Instead of congregations sending missionaries overseas to serve those in need, the Wyatts are here to show congregations how to do that right in their own communities, Hovis said.

“Their main job is to equip and energize our congregations to engage in the mission,” he said of the couple who are working in Raleigh. “They are here to teach us and empower us and work alongside us and ultimately to give the ministry away.”

Ministry matchmakers

Still, the Wyatts’ approach is one they developed during several years of international mission work.

The native North Carolinians’ first post was in Thailand. Their next post, in Canada where working with international populations in some of Canada’s largest cities clued them into a new way of being missionaries.

“We had a missional conversation about what it means to be a missionary,” Kim Wyatt said.

Essentially it was that they didn’t have to go to the “uttermost parts of the Earth” to minister to those “from the uttermost parts of the Earth,” she said.

The couple saw that “they are also right here and they are our neighbors.”

The Wyatts’ practice in Canada had been to befriend foreigners living in Canada, whether they were academics, students, impoverished refugees or wealthy business executives.

Wyatt3

But they quickly saw they could personally build relationships with a limited number of people. So they started involving local Baptist and other churches.

“I say that I am a matchmaker,” Kim Wyatt said. “I match newly arrived folks … with Christians who have probably lived in the same house for 25 years.”

The experience has been transformative. Local Christians built friendships with people from often-stereotyped cultures, while the internationals dispeled myths about Christians learned in their native countries.

Churches have been able to fulfil the biblical value of hospitality for the foreigner and as a result often find themselves transformed as some internationals join their faith and congregations.

“It has revitalized [those] who welcomed what the refugees brought to their churches,” Kim Wyatt said.

Shifting missions paradigm

And that’s what got Hovis’ attention in North Carolina.

During a sabbatical visit with the Hyatts in 2012, Hovis said he saw how some congregations were rejuvenated by their participation in the Wyatts’ work and wondered “could they do the same thing here [that] they did up there?”

The contexts were similar, he added. Canada achieved an advanced post-Christian culture years before the United States, making the Wyatts' approach especially relevant now.

Also relevant is their approach to doing foreign missions domestically.

Larry-Hovis

The old model saw churches send missionaries overseas, with the missionaries being extensions of a church’s programs, Hovis said.

“We traditionally thought of missionaries as working on our behalf in places where we can’t go,” he said. “And occasionally they would host us on mission trips.”

But that doesn’t work anymore — especially as churches experience membership declines and falter financially.

Immigration, meanwhile, has also changed the picture.

“The mission field has come to us and we need to learn how to engage our mission field,” Hovis said. “We can’t do business the way we’ve always done it.”

‘A whole new consciousness’

The Wyatts say embracing that new concept of mission work also means churches transforming how they conceive of ministry.

Embracing internationals, for example, doesn’t mean inviting them to church for coffee or free clothes.

Instead, it means being willing to build relationships — friendships — with all kinds of people from all kinds of places.

“You must be willing to take your passions and be uncomfortable enough to take risks across cultures,” Kim Wyatt said.

It can also mean being OK with meeting an international who is much wealthier than most members of a church.

In the Research Triangle Park, where the Wyatts are focusing, that is highly likely. In addition to refugees being resettled to the area, there also are three major universities with thousands of foreign-born professors and students.

Finding those people in their communities, Marc Wyatt said, means being open and positioned in order to eventually start meeting those who are lonely or in need.

Offering English lessons is one such way. It also requires churches to have an awareness of existing ministries and agencies who already serve those populations, he said.

“We have to be willing to move outside our programs and outside our buildings,” Marc Wyatt said.

He added that it takes much more than awareness of cultural differences. It’s about embodying hospitality.

“If our churches become aware of how important the welcome is — welcome into my life — they’ll have a whole new consciousness of what it means to be a missional people,” he said.

]]>
Jeff Brumley People Mon, 26 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0500
CBF forms ad hoc committee for implementation of global missions strategy http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/29757-cbf-forms-ad-hoc-committee-for-implementation-of-global-missions-strategy http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/29757-cbf-forms-ad-hoc-committee-for-implementation-of-global-missions-strategy The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Governing Board has formed an ad hoc committee to get a head start on policy and funding recommendations likely to result from a strategic planning process initiated by the new CBF Missions Council.

By Bob Allen

The Governing Board of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship heard an initial report from an ad hoc group appointed in recent months to collaborate with a newly up-and-running Missions Council on how to retool the organization’s global missions enterprise to meet challenges far different than when the 1,800-church Fellowship was born in the early 1990s.

steven porter strategySteven Porter, CBF Global Missions coordinator, said that includes narrowing the focus of a global missions department that began in earnest with an offer extended by the then-fledgling Fellowship to pick up the salaries of any Southern Baptist missionary who could no longer in good conscience stay affiliated with what today is called the International Mission Board.

“Twenty-five years ago we launched CBF, and a major part of that was being a life raft for missionaries who were kind of floating adrift, you might say,” Porter said in a report at the Jan. 22-23 leadership meeting at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga.

“From that we have grown to a missions organization that has 125 field personnel in over 30 countries, and a very complex organization,” Porter said. “But the structures that we inherited and shaped along the way were designed primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to serve a world that in many respects doesn’t exist any longer.”

Porter, named to the global missions coordinator post last year, said the rationale for the planning process “is to upgrade our structures so they serve faithfully the 21st-century world in the way that our old structures served the 20th-century world.”

“Our past processes, being mostly internal affairs, didn’t force us to make some hard decisions,” Porter said. “It didn’t make us prune and narrow things.”

paul baxleyTo expedite the process, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter and Moderator Kasey Jones named a seven-person panel from the Governing Council to work with the Missions Council in the strategic planning process. Paul Baxley, chair of the ad hoc Committee on Global Missions Structures and Staffing, said it’s the first such collaboration since a new CBF governance structure was approved in 2012.

The new CBF structure assigns responsibility for global missions strategy to a newly formed Missions Council. Personnel policy and funding recommendations are assigned to a Governing Council smaller and more narrowly focused than the Coordinating Council that oversaw all CBF operations during the movement’s first 20 years. A third Ministries Council is focused on identifying and sharing resources among churches and CBF ministry partners.

Porter said the planning will include input from a wide range of constituencies, such as state and regional organizations, major donors, congregations and field personnel. Last month Porter sent out a 10-page Christmas letter explaining the process to field personnel and telling them how they can engage in the process.

“I think this is one of the very significant things about this,” Porter said. “This is not like previous strategic planning processes for our global missions division, which have always been an internal affair.”

“There is plenty of anxiety on the part of some, and a lot of excitement on the part of some of our other folks, that real change can actually happen because we have the gift of a Missions Council,” he said. “We’ve never had an external board before, and that’s truly a gift.”

At the same meeting of the Governing Council, a separate task force presented an internal working document outlining strategy for a sustainable funding strategy over the next five years.

Doug Dortch, chair of the committee composed of members of the Governing Council’s finance, advancement and networking committees, said with a current trend of declining church support and individual gifts on the rise, a major question for the Fellowship’s future is “where is the money coming from?”

“I am concerned that we look for ways to maintain the level of congregational support that we have received and not assume that it will always be at that level,” said Dortch, senior minister at Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

“I turn 60 this year,” Dortch said. “I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am excited about that.”

“Who takes my place?” he wondered. “It is no guarantee that whoever takes my place will be as passionate about CBF as I. It’s no guarantee, and I’m not alone.”

“My guess is if you were to look at the top 50 contributing churches in CBF life, most of the pastors of those congregations are at the same life stage as I, and there will be no guarantee in those situations that whoever follows the pastors who are in those congregations will be equally as passionate and supportive about the future of CBF,” Dortch said.

He suggested reaching out to such pastors nearing the end of their careers asking “what can we do as CBF to help you personally” guide churches toward that transition.

Baxley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Athens, Ga., said he doesn’t take for granted that congregational giving will remain flat or in decline, but if it does “we don’t want it to be because we did not ask.”

“The generational shift you talked about compels us to come up with a new way of asking congregations,” Baxley responded to Dortch. “They didn’t come of age in the old Cooperative Program world, and so we’re going to have to articulate [that] with new clarity.”

“We did such a good job telling people to do the mission of God in their own neighborhood,” Baxley said. “Now we’re going to have to do an excellent job of explaining to congregations why they need to cooperate with the rest of us to make a bigger difference in the world.”

Porter said the funding strategy discussion dovetails with that of the global missions task force.

“This work of narrowing focus in the area of global missions is very important, because it is exceptionally hard to tell our story right now,” Porter said. “Once you get beyond the number of field personnel, the number of countries and some slogans that are truly beautiful, it’s really hard to say here’s what we do, because we do so many good things.”

“I think as we do that, what we are going to find is it becomes much easier to develop common metrics, talk about impact and then tell a story in a way that makes a compelling pitch for engagement and support.”

The Governing Council met for over an hour in executive session. Though the discussion was not reported, a CBF bylaw requires that most meetings be open to any member of the Fellowship, with exceptions for discussions of legal matters, contracts or personnel.

Previous story:

BWA taps CBF as its liaison for religious liberty at the United Nations

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The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Governing Board has formed an ad hoc committee to get a head start on policy and funding recommendations likely to result from a strategic planning process initiated by the new CBF Missions Council.

By Bob Allen

The Governing Board of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship heard an initial report from an ad hoc group appointed in recent months to collaborate with a newly up-and-running Missions Council on how to retool the organization’s global missions enterprise to meet challenges far different than when the 1,800-church Fellowship was born in the early 1990s.

steven porter strategySteven Porter, CBF Global Missions coordinator, said that includes narrowing the focus of a global missions department that began in earnest with an offer extended by the then-fledgling Fellowship to pick up the salaries of any Southern Baptist missionary who could no longer in good conscience stay affiliated with what today is called the International Mission Board.

“Twenty-five years ago we launched CBF, and a major part of that was being a life raft for missionaries who were kind of floating adrift, you might say,” Porter said in a report at the Jan. 22-23 leadership meeting at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga.

“From that we have grown to a missions organization that has 125 field personnel in over 30 countries, and a very complex organization,” Porter said. “But the structures that we inherited and shaped along the way were designed primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to serve a world that in many respects doesn’t exist any longer.”

Porter, named to the global missions coordinator post last year, said the rationale for the planning process “is to upgrade our structures so they serve faithfully the 21st-century world in the way that our old structures served the 20th-century world.”

“Our past processes, being mostly internal affairs, didn’t force us to make some hard decisions,” Porter said. “It didn’t make us prune and narrow things.”

paul baxleyTo expedite the process, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter and Moderator Kasey Jones named a seven-person panel from the Governing Council to work with the Missions Council in the strategic planning process. Paul Baxley, chair of the ad hoc Committee on Global Missions Structures and Staffing, said it’s the first such collaboration since a new CBF governance structure was approved in 2012.

The new CBF structure assigns responsibility for global missions strategy to a newly formed Missions Council. Personnel policy and funding recommendations are assigned to a Governing Council smaller and more narrowly focused than the Coordinating Council that oversaw all CBF operations during the movement’s first 20 years. A third Ministries Council is focused on identifying and sharing resources among churches and CBF ministry partners.

Porter said the planning will include input from a wide range of constituencies, such as state and regional organizations, major donors, congregations and field personnel. Last month Porter sent out a 10-page Christmas letter explaining the process to field personnel and telling them how they can engage in the process.

“I think this is one of the very significant things about this,” Porter said. “This is not like previous strategic planning processes for our global missions division, which have always been an internal affair.”

“There is plenty of anxiety on the part of some, and a lot of excitement on the part of some of our other folks, that real change can actually happen because we have the gift of a Missions Council,” he said. “We’ve never had an external board before, and that’s truly a gift.”

At the same meeting of the Governing Council, a separate task force presented an internal working document outlining strategy for a sustainable funding strategy over the next five years.

Doug Dortch, chair of the committee composed of members of the Governing Council’s finance, advancement and networking committees, said with a current trend of declining church support and individual gifts on the rise, a major question for the Fellowship’s future is “where is the money coming from?”

“I am concerned that we look for ways to maintain the level of congregational support that we have received and not assume that it will always be at that level,” said Dortch, senior minister at Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

“I turn 60 this year,” Dortch said. “I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am excited about that.”

“Who takes my place?” he wondered. “It is no guarantee that whoever takes my place will be as passionate about CBF as I. It’s no guarantee, and I’m not alone.”

“My guess is if you were to look at the top 50 contributing churches in CBF life, most of the pastors of those congregations are at the same life stage as I, and there will be no guarantee in those situations that whoever follows the pastors who are in those congregations will be equally as passionate and supportive about the future of CBF,” Dortch said.

He suggested reaching out to such pastors nearing the end of their careers asking “what can we do as CBF to help you personally” guide churches toward that transition.

Baxley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Athens, Ga., said he doesn’t take for granted that congregational giving will remain flat or in decline, but if it does “we don’t want it to be because we did not ask.”

“The generational shift you talked about compels us to come up with a new way of asking congregations,” Baxley responded to Dortch. “They didn’t come of age in the old Cooperative Program world, and so we’re going to have to articulate [that] with new clarity.”

“We did such a good job telling people to do the mission of God in their own neighborhood,” Baxley said. “Now we’re going to have to do an excellent job of explaining to congregations why they need to cooperate with the rest of us to make a bigger difference in the world.”

Porter said the funding strategy discussion dovetails with that of the global missions task force.

“This work of narrowing focus in the area of global missions is very important, because it is exceptionally hard to tell our story right now,” Porter said. “Once you get beyond the number of field personnel, the number of countries and some slogans that are truly beautiful, it’s really hard to say here’s what we do, because we do so many good things.”

“I think as we do that, what we are going to find is it becomes much easier to develop common metrics, talk about impact and then tell a story in a way that makes a compelling pitch for engagement and support.”

The Governing Council met for over an hour in executive session. Though the discussion was not reported, a CBF bylaw requires that most meetings be open to any member of the Fellowship, with exceptions for discussions of legal matters, contracts or personnel.

Previous story:

BWA taps CBF as its liaison for religious liberty at the United Nations

]]>
Bob Allen Organizations Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:20:23 -0500
Baptists’ mission work order changes from carpentry to caring http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29560-as-baptists-minister-in-ukraine-a-mission-work-order-changes-from-carpentry-to-caring http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29560-as-baptists-minister-in-ukraine-a-mission-work-order-changes-from-carpentry-to-caring A Roma couple at Kisbégány near Mukacheve, Ukraine. (Photo by K Brown)
Engaging the Roma in Ukraine leaves no visitor unchanged.

By Norman Jameson

If you’ve ever heard of the Roma, it’s likely the romanticized version of brightly clad gypsies drifting carefree in caravans across Europe, setting up camp, stealing the local chickens and dancing until sunrise.

In reality present-day Roma — also known as the Romany — can no longer easily roam across watchful national borders and their wagons now haul any rare treasure liberated from the garbage dumps on which they live. Their neighbors despise, spit upon and hit them if they dare occupy the same sidewalks.

Their poverty is so desperate they wear a layer of dirt like a shirt. They need housing, education, food, clothes, medicine, paved streets, grass to play, gas for stoves, boards to plug drafts in their shacks and shoes for their feet when they step outside to the toilet in below zero temperatures.

LongAt the invitation of the disaster relief organization Hungarian Baptist Aid, North Carolina Baptist Men and Women on Mission began serving the Roma in their slatternly villages around the Ukrainian city of Mukacheve (known in Hungarian as Munkacs) in 2008. Their task: to refurbish an abandoned KGB station as a community worship, ministry and education center.

After a number of trips local Christians said they could complete the building’s refurbishing. What they really needed were people to come and love the unlovable, to shine the light of Christ into the dark recesses of rejection and shame.

The work order changed from carpentry to caring.

Now each summer volunteers hold vacation Bible schools, teach English and generally hang out with kids and families, demonstrating love and acceptance Roma rarely find in their environment.

A spontaneous clinic organized with a few medicines packed by volunteers “just in case” revealed needs so overwhelming that the caring aspect took on a medical tone.

Roma FamilyVideographer K Brown has been to Ukraine 15 times since 2007 as part of his assignment with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. His wife, Dana, has been on those trips and three more on her own.

Their most recent trip included members and friends from Roxboro (N.C.) Baptist Church, who were visiting for the fourth time.

Jill Burleson, wife of Roxboro Baptist music minister Mike Moose, and a nurse practitioner at Duke University Medical Center, tells describes her first arrival at the Roma village in Mukacheve, which, like so many others, begins where the paved road ends:

“Our van passed a whitewashed brick wall, switching from a quaint village … to a trash heap. Mud roads jostled our insides while we tried to comprehend the stark reality behind that wall: Filth, trash, mud, disease, houses crafted crudely out of sticks or mud, roofs patched with cardboard and trash to hold it in place.

“Children with naked brown bodies and swollen bellies from malnutrition ran alongside the van to cheer and wave. Their dirty faces strained to make out these strangers coming to visit. The need was overwhelming. And the tears began.

“Those tears were soon dried by mamas and children clamoring to hug, kiss and engulf us into their fold as if we were family. We entered a building, from which a melody came floating lightly, joyously, on the putrid air, turning the stench of the trash into a holy aroma rising to the heavens. And there we worshiped.”

Ann Enloe, an oncology nurse at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., says, “I actually never knew the Roma gypsies existed until this trip. And now I just can’t forget them.”

CheckupNo visitor leaves these Roma unaffected.

They worship passionately, says music minister Moose. True worshippers come to God with empty hands, he adds. “Our hands are so full we have to put things down to worship. They [the Roma] have nothing in their hands. God is all they have. It is precious. When they sing Blessed Be Your Name they really mean it. It’s emotional to hear them sing.”

On his first trip to Mukacheve, Moose slipped off a boardwalk and into the meandering, muddy drainage ditch that passes as a street. He smelled foul to himself, but not to a little child who wanted to play.

“I smelled just like he did,” Moose says. “It was an identification. Their love runs so deep, beyond the smell, beyond the filth. It is a precious gift to be with those people.”

That slurry of mud and sewage into which Moose stepped flows dangerous and constant. It is a vein that stains the village and illustrates the poverty that makes children its most poignant victims.

Trish Long, a pharmacist at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, N.C., and a member of Roxboro Baptist, explains:

“Because of lack of basic medical care and poor nutrition, simple summer colds can become serious lung infections. Children with no shoes walking in mud develop abscesses on their feet and legs from the many cuts and sores.

Children“Poor sanitation and filthy living conditions lead to parasite infestation, chronic diarrhea, and weight loss in an already underweight child. For some of these children, this can lead to serious life threatening conditions.”

“Is the medical attention, vitamins and medicine our groups provide just a band-aid?” Brown asks. “Yes. We take worm pills for the kids. Three months later, they’ll have worms again with constant diarrhea and trips to the outhouse through mud and snow. But for three months they’ve felt better than they can remember. I’ll take three months.”

In the village where K and Dana are treated as family and no longer as visitors, one tap provides water for 25 homes — when it flows. Other area wells bore first through garbage dumps, drawing water polluted with the residue leaching through the soil.

It didn’t take long — just the first hours — for the initial medical team to understand their reason for being there.

A woman named Lilly came to the clinic in severe distress. Several weeks earlier her dress had caught fire while she was sifting through the garbage, looking for anything useable to eat, wear or sell.

Despite third degree burns over much of her body, she was sent home from the hospital in Mukacheve with little attention and no pain medication. Had she been in North Carolina, one of the nurses said, she would have been in a burn unit for a month.

BabyHer underwear was never removed and she was using a rag for a bandage. Skin started to grow back with the fabric attached. The pain would have been excruciating.

In the moment they met Lilly the team knew they’d come to Mukacheve for her. They spent two hours removing the fabric that had grown into her skin, gently cleaning the wounds and easing her pain.

“She came back every morning for continued treatment and her transformation was amazing — from a withdrawn blank stare to an enormous smile and gentle hugs,” said Jill.

Burns are common among Roma because of open flame cooking, in both outside pits and small stoves in the middle of their 12 x 12 houses. Latent injuries lurk in the smoldering garbage piles in which they sift for salvageable items.

DuPre Sanders, pastor of Roxboro Baptist Church, has not been to Mukacheve, but has traveled to Guatemala and Belize where members also are involved in international missions. They revisit sites to establish relationships, rather than conducting one stop drop-ins.

“Those who go know the people,” he says. “They care about the people. They care about the churches and the work that is being done and those relationships grow as you go.

“Every time they come back and share their stories there is renewed energy for the work there.”

Missions involvement helps Roxboro members “understand the importance of being a part of something bigger than we are. It’s helped us reach outside the walls of our church and not be inward focused.”

Roxboro’s involvement overseas and locally with Stop Hunger Now and Operation Inasmuch, is “good for us,” Sanders says.

“We’re a traditional Baptist church on Main Street in a traditional, small Southern town. These efforts broaden our horizons greatly. We’re Kingdom people who are called to serve with other believers in the kingdom.”

—This article originally appeared in  Herald, BNG’s bi-monthly magazine. To find out more about the magazine, click here.

]]>
A Roma couple at Kisbégány near Mukacheve, Ukraine. (Photo by K Brown)
Engaging the Roma in Ukraine leaves no visitor unchanged.

By Norman Jameson

If you’ve ever heard of the Roma, it’s likely the romanticized version of brightly clad gypsies drifting carefree in caravans across Europe, setting up camp, stealing the local chickens and dancing until sunrise.

In reality present-day Roma — also known as the Romany — can no longer easily roam across watchful national borders and their wagons now haul any rare treasure liberated from the garbage dumps on which they live. Their neighbors despise, spit upon and hit them if they dare occupy the same sidewalks.

Their poverty is so desperate they wear a layer of dirt like a shirt. They need housing, education, food, clothes, medicine, paved streets, grass to play, gas for stoves, boards to plug drafts in their shacks and shoes for their feet when they step outside to the toilet in below zero temperatures.

LongAt the invitation of the disaster relief organization Hungarian Baptist Aid, North Carolina Baptist Men and Women on Mission began serving the Roma in their slatternly villages around the Ukrainian city of Mukacheve (known in Hungarian as Munkacs) in 2008. Their task: to refurbish an abandoned KGB station as a community worship, ministry and education center.

After a number of trips local Christians said they could complete the building’s refurbishing. What they really needed were people to come and love the unlovable, to shine the light of Christ into the dark recesses of rejection and shame.

The work order changed from carpentry to caring.

Now each summer volunteers hold vacation Bible schools, teach English and generally hang out with kids and families, demonstrating love and acceptance Roma rarely find in their environment.

A spontaneous clinic organized with a few medicines packed by volunteers “just in case” revealed needs so overwhelming that the caring aspect took on a medical tone.

Roma FamilyVideographer K Brown has been to Ukraine 15 times since 2007 as part of his assignment with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. His wife, Dana, has been on those trips and three more on her own.

Their most recent trip included members and friends from Roxboro (N.C.) Baptist Church, who were visiting for the fourth time.

Jill Burleson, wife of Roxboro Baptist music minister Mike Moose, and a nurse practitioner at Duke University Medical Center, tells describes her first arrival at the Roma village in Mukacheve, which, like so many others, begins where the paved road ends:

“Our van passed a whitewashed brick wall, switching from a quaint village … to a trash heap. Mud roads jostled our insides while we tried to comprehend the stark reality behind that wall: Filth, trash, mud, disease, houses crafted crudely out of sticks or mud, roofs patched with cardboard and trash to hold it in place.

“Children with naked brown bodies and swollen bellies from malnutrition ran alongside the van to cheer and wave. Their dirty faces strained to make out these strangers coming to visit. The need was overwhelming. And the tears began.

“Those tears were soon dried by mamas and children clamoring to hug, kiss and engulf us into their fold as if we were family. We entered a building, from which a melody came floating lightly, joyously, on the putrid air, turning the stench of the trash into a holy aroma rising to the heavens. And there we worshiped.”

Ann Enloe, an oncology nurse at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., says, “I actually never knew the Roma gypsies existed until this trip. And now I just can’t forget them.”

CheckupNo visitor leaves these Roma unaffected.

They worship passionately, says music minister Moose. True worshippers come to God with empty hands, he adds. “Our hands are so full we have to put things down to worship. They [the Roma] have nothing in their hands. God is all they have. It is precious. When they sing Blessed Be Your Name they really mean it. It’s emotional to hear them sing.”

On his first trip to Mukacheve, Moose slipped off a boardwalk and into the meandering, muddy drainage ditch that passes as a street. He smelled foul to himself, but not to a little child who wanted to play.

“I smelled just like he did,” Moose says. “It was an identification. Their love runs so deep, beyond the smell, beyond the filth. It is a precious gift to be with those people.”

That slurry of mud and sewage into which Moose stepped flows dangerous and constant. It is a vein that stains the village and illustrates the poverty that makes children its most poignant victims.

Trish Long, a pharmacist at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, N.C., and a member of Roxboro Baptist, explains:

“Because of lack of basic medical care and poor nutrition, simple summer colds can become serious lung infections. Children with no shoes walking in mud develop abscesses on their feet and legs from the many cuts and sores.

Children“Poor sanitation and filthy living conditions lead to parasite infestation, chronic diarrhea, and weight loss in an already underweight child. For some of these children, this can lead to serious life threatening conditions.”

“Is the medical attention, vitamins and medicine our groups provide just a band-aid?” Brown asks. “Yes. We take worm pills for the kids. Three months later, they’ll have worms again with constant diarrhea and trips to the outhouse through mud and snow. But for three months they’ve felt better than they can remember. I’ll take three months.”

In the village where K and Dana are treated as family and no longer as visitors, one tap provides water for 25 homes — when it flows. Other area wells bore first through garbage dumps, drawing water polluted with the residue leaching through the soil.

It didn’t take long — just the first hours — for the initial medical team to understand their reason for being there.

A woman named Lilly came to the clinic in severe distress. Several weeks earlier her dress had caught fire while she was sifting through the garbage, looking for anything useable to eat, wear or sell.

Despite third degree burns over much of her body, she was sent home from the hospital in Mukacheve with little attention and no pain medication. Had she been in North Carolina, one of the nurses said, she would have been in a burn unit for a month.

BabyHer underwear was never removed and she was using a rag for a bandage. Skin started to grow back with the fabric attached. The pain would have been excruciating.

In the moment they met Lilly the team knew they’d come to Mukacheve for her. They spent two hours removing the fabric that had grown into her skin, gently cleaning the wounds and easing her pain.

“She came back every morning for continued treatment and her transformation was amazing — from a withdrawn blank stare to an enormous smile and gentle hugs,” said Jill.

Burns are common among Roma because of open flame cooking, in both outside pits and small stoves in the middle of their 12 x 12 houses. Latent injuries lurk in the smoldering garbage piles in which they sift for salvageable items.

DuPre Sanders, pastor of Roxboro Baptist Church, has not been to Mukacheve, but has traveled to Guatemala and Belize where members also are involved in international missions. They revisit sites to establish relationships, rather than conducting one stop drop-ins.

“Those who go know the people,” he says. “They care about the people. They care about the churches and the work that is being done and those relationships grow as you go.

“Every time they come back and share their stories there is renewed energy for the work there.”

Missions involvement helps Roxboro members “understand the importance of being a part of something bigger than we are. It’s helped us reach outside the walls of our church and not be inward focused.”

Roxboro’s involvement overseas and locally with Stop Hunger Now and Operation Inasmuch, is “good for us,” Sanders says.

“We’re a traditional Baptist church on Main Street in a traditional, small Southern town. These efforts broaden our horizons greatly. We’re Kingdom people who are called to serve with other believers in the kingdom.”

—This article originally appeared in  Herald, BNG’s bi-monthly magazine. To find out more about the magazine, click here.

]]>
Norman Jameson Missions Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:08:49 -0500
This kind of denomination is dead http://baptistnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/29482-this-kind-of-denomination-is-dead http://baptistnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/29482-this-kind-of-denomination-is-dead Some denominations still maintain diseased practices which require euthanasia.

By George Bullard

Anyone who has followed my lifelong trek through the maze of denominational staff service and consulting and coaching with denominational organizations knows that I believe in denominations. I also believe they have a future that respects their past and present.

The current era which many call post-denominational I describe as a denominational transformation era. Denominations are not going away. They are simply being transformed — or morphed, if you prefer — into a new form.

What is this new form? Before we can go there, we have to talk about things that, emerging out of the morphing phase, are no longer part of denominational organizations. Many denominational organizations embracing these things are already dying. Way too many current denominations are still doing old things, and do not realize they are surrounded by dead bodies. Perhaps they are best known as the walking dead.

Here are two things I see denominations doing that are now dead efforts or diseased practices to the point that euthanasia is called for.

First, from sometime in the 19th century through most of the 20th century many denominations organized around a “gapology” framework. The goal was to do for churches what churches could not do for themselves, or at least what churches felt they could not do for themselves.

It was perceived that churches could not build colleges, seminaries, hospitals, orphanages or community ministry centers; provide credentials for ministers; send and support missionaries throughout the world; publish curriculum and other resources; offer insurance and retirement programs; engage in political and social advocacy; maintain doctrinal integrity; and many other things.

At least, individual churches could not do them as well as a collaboration of churches through a denominational structure. Denominations ultimately developed the mindset that they could do these things best. They were better than congregations, and congregations needed to be loyal to them and support them financially.

In the past several decades it turns out churches can do many of these things as well if not better than denominations. This caused a shrinking of the gap between what denominations can do and what churches can do. It led to churches to wonder why the need existed for denominations if their primary purpose was to fill the gaps.

I heard more than one pastor say, “If I could find an alternative way to do global missions, and have the insurance and retirement program I need, my church would not need our denomination.”

Emerging models of denominationalism do not take a gapology framework approach. They have a unique understanding of their mission as they come alongside various types of congregational expressions.

Second, the big lie denominations sold to churches during the 20th century is that money follows mission — or missions, if you prefer the plural action word. Denominations did not know this was a lie. It took the digital age to realize the lie.

Money does not follow mission. Money follows the information flow. During the gilded age of denominationalism, billions of dollars flowed through denominational channels using the missionary plea that money was needed to fund worldwide missions efforts.

The idea was that the primary ways for the masses of people to discover what was happening in missionary efforts throughout the world were the action reports sent to missionary-sending agencies and then published in newspapers and magazines. They came alive through inspirational missions sermons using this material and through deputation service by missionaries home on furlough.

Certain missionaries and inspirational missions speakers became larger than life and could inspire thousands. A few even had missions offerings named for them. This was not a bad thing. It was a good thing. Many denominations embraced the thought that missions is what unified their movement.

Now that churches can email, text or Skype their favorite missionary or national Christian leader in a country — even in a Christian hostile country — multiple times per day, their money goes the same way. If denominations wanted to control the collection and distribution of resources, they should have never allowed the first volunteer missions group to go to an international destination.

Once they did that the system of funding changed. It was just a matter of time when it would take place and in what forms it would find expression. New emerging models of denominationalism recognize the shifting funding patterns and embrace them.

]]>
Some denominations still maintain diseased practices which require euthanasia.

By George Bullard

Anyone who has followed my lifelong trek through the maze of denominational staff service and consulting and coaching with denominational organizations knows that I believe in denominations. I also believe they have a future that respects their past and present.

The current era which many call post-denominational I describe as a denominational transformation era. Denominations are not going away. They are simply being transformed — or morphed, if you prefer — into a new form.

What is this new form? Before we can go there, we have to talk about things that, emerging out of the morphing phase, are no longer part of denominational organizations. Many denominational organizations embracing these things are already dying. Way too many current denominations are still doing old things, and do not realize they are surrounded by dead bodies. Perhaps they are best known as the walking dead.

Here are two things I see denominations doing that are now dead efforts or diseased practices to the point that euthanasia is called for.

First, from sometime in the 19th century through most of the 20th century many denominations organized around a “gapology” framework. The goal was to do for churches what churches could not do for themselves, or at least what churches felt they could not do for themselves.

It was perceived that churches could not build colleges, seminaries, hospitals, orphanages or community ministry centers; provide credentials for ministers; send and support missionaries throughout the world; publish curriculum and other resources; offer insurance and retirement programs; engage in political and social advocacy; maintain doctrinal integrity; and many other things.

At least, individual churches could not do them as well as a collaboration of churches through a denominational structure. Denominations ultimately developed the mindset that they could do these things best. They were better than congregations, and congregations needed to be loyal to them and support them financially.

In the past several decades it turns out churches can do many of these things as well if not better than denominations. This caused a shrinking of the gap between what denominations can do and what churches can do. It led to churches to wonder why the need existed for denominations if their primary purpose was to fill the gaps.

I heard more than one pastor say, “If I could find an alternative way to do global missions, and have the insurance and retirement program I need, my church would not need our denomination.”

Emerging models of denominationalism do not take a gapology framework approach. They have a unique understanding of their mission as they come alongside various types of congregational expressions.

Second, the big lie denominations sold to churches during the 20th century is that money follows mission — or missions, if you prefer the plural action word. Denominations did not know this was a lie. It took the digital age to realize the lie.

Money does not follow mission. Money follows the information flow. During the gilded age of denominationalism, billions of dollars flowed through denominational channels using the missionary plea that money was needed to fund worldwide missions efforts.

The idea was that the primary ways for the masses of people to discover what was happening in missionary efforts throughout the world were the action reports sent to missionary-sending agencies and then published in newspapers and magazines. They came alive through inspirational missions sermons using this material and through deputation service by missionaries home on furlough.

Certain missionaries and inspirational missions speakers became larger than life and could inspire thousands. A few even had missions offerings named for them. This was not a bad thing. It was a good thing. Many denominations embraced the thought that missions is what unified their movement.

Now that churches can email, text or Skype their favorite missionary or national Christian leader in a country — even in a Christian hostile country — multiple times per day, their money goes the same way. If denominations wanted to control the collection and distribution of resources, they should have never allowed the first volunteer missions group to go to an international destination.

Once they did that the system of funding changed. It was just a matter of time when it would take place and in what forms it would find expression. New emerging models of denominationalism recognize the shifting funding patterns and embrace them.

]]>
George Bullard Commentaries Fri, 07 Nov 2014 11:45:00 -0500
Baptists enriched by repeated missions to Sioux http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29188-baptists-enriched-by-repeated-missions-to-sioux http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/29188-baptists-enriched-by-repeated-missions-to-sioux Virginia WMU volunteers have worked at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation for a decade.
Returning over many years to the same mission destination reaps huge benefits for those going and those welcoming, say Baptist groups in Virginia and Tennessee.

By Jeff Brumley

Even the Oglala Lakota Sioux who haven’t embraced Christianity live out gospel values such as family, charity and self-sacrifice, Tennessean Sean Prince says.

Prince is the organizer of an annual mission trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for his congregation, First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, Tenn. They’ve visited the same reservation, and the same communities within it, for six summers.

Going back repeatedly, Prince said, has enabled him and others to see first-hand how Native American culture is built on helping and trusting others regardless of personal circumstances.

“And that resonates with me,” Prince said.

Sean Prince

It’s taken multiple trips to the same site to fully appreciate the qualities of Native American culture, he added.

“Each year we are touched in ways that are fully unexpected,” he said. “We fully acknowledge that we are more so the beneficiaries of the trip than they are.”

‘Beyond charitable response’

Prince’s observation reflects a trend sweeping American churches, Baptist and otherwise, away from the one-time-visit mission trips to the keep-coming-back variety.

Ministry leaders in locations receiving the visits, as well as those traveling say it’s a better use of money, sweat and love to focus on one project and place over many years.

And the idea has a firm footing already among major Christian organizations as well as individual churches.

“One of the things WMU wanted to do was move beyond the charitable response — the giving of a fish,” said Maria Lynn, adult missions coordinator for Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia, based in Richmond.

Desert ViewThe previous model accomplished a lot of good through efforts such as clothing and feeding programs, Lynn said.

“But we were praying how we could do more empowering kinds of ministries — teaching them to fish,” she said.

‘Disconcerting … at first’

To accomplish that meant finding a project Baptist churches across the state would find interesting and challenging, and where the need is great.

WMUV found all of that on the Standing Rock reservation, a Lakota Sioux reservation the size of Connecticut that straddles North and South Dakota.

A decade ago, the union partnered with the Roanoke Valley Baptist Association in Virginia, which has a long-standing mission project to the reservation.

Today, WMUV sends about 200 volunteers from churches around the state to its Standing Rock project each summer. An additional 300 go from Virginia either through the Roanoke association or individual groups.

The work they do includes both the “give a fish” and “teach to fish” varieties, Lynn said.

Maria LynnWMUThere are construction teams, Vacation Bible School teams, feeding and clothing teams and a traveling fair team that sets up bounce houses. All rove between the reservation’s 10 communities.

But going back each year revealed underlying community problems to the visitors, such as teen suicide. So an equestrian ministry was established to work with troubled youth, Lynn said.

It was also learned through experience that sharing the gospel to Native Americans requires them getting to know and trust you, she said.

WMUV Standing Rock“This was disconcerting for our volunteers at first,” she said, adding that some chose not to return.

‘They come home ... with fresh eyes’

“The culture there requires that you build relationships first before they are receptive to hearing anything you have to say,” Lynn said.

Building those relationships, she added, of course requires time that has also changed the mission culture of many of the participating Baptist churches.

Many have developed friendships with reservation residents that are nurtured outside the confines of the mission trips. Lynn said Facebook groups have been created where the Native Americans and their visitors keep track of illnesses and deaths.

Some churches report a renewed enthusiasm in local ministries, she added.

“They come home and see their communities with fresh eyes, as well.”

In Tennessee, Prince said he’s also seen the world with fresh eyes since participating in his first encounter with the Sioux six years ago.

One way that’s happened is through their spirituality. The Sioux all believe in a great creator who unites them and inspires a culture that puts others first.

“We really don’t have that off the reservation,” Prince said. “Our culture is such a me-first culture, and when you go on the reservation, you don’t experience that.”

]]>
Virginia WMU volunteers have worked at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation for a decade.
Returning over many years to the same mission destination reaps huge benefits for those going and those welcoming, say Baptist groups in Virginia and Tennessee.

By Jeff Brumley

Even the Oglala Lakota Sioux who haven’t embraced Christianity live out gospel values such as family, charity and self-sacrifice, Tennessean Sean Prince says.

Prince is the organizer of an annual mission trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for his congregation, First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, Tenn. They’ve visited the same reservation, and the same communities within it, for six summers.

Going back repeatedly, Prince said, has enabled him and others to see first-hand how Native American culture is built on helping and trusting others regardless of personal circumstances.

“And that resonates with me,” Prince said.

Sean Prince

It’s taken multiple trips to the same site to fully appreciate the qualities of Native American culture, he added.

“Each year we are touched in ways that are fully unexpected,” he said. “We fully acknowledge that we are more so the beneficiaries of the trip than they are.”

‘Beyond charitable response’

Prince’s observation reflects a trend sweeping American churches, Baptist and otherwise, away from the one-time-visit mission trips to the keep-coming-back variety.

Ministry leaders in locations receiving the visits, as well as those traveling say it’s a better use of money, sweat and love to focus on one project and place over many years.

And the idea has a firm footing already among major Christian organizations as well as individual churches.

“One of the things WMU wanted to do was move beyond the charitable response — the giving of a fish,” said Maria Lynn, adult missions coordinator for Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia, based in Richmond.

Desert ViewThe previous model accomplished a lot of good through efforts such as clothing and feeding programs, Lynn said.

“But we were praying how we could do more empowering kinds of ministries — teaching them to fish,” she said.

‘Disconcerting … at first’

To accomplish that meant finding a project Baptist churches across the state would find interesting and challenging, and where the need is great.

WMUV found all of that on the Standing Rock reservation, a Lakota Sioux reservation the size of Connecticut that straddles North and South Dakota.

A decade ago, the union partnered with the Roanoke Valley Baptist Association in Virginia, which has a long-standing mission project to the reservation.

Today, WMUV sends about 200 volunteers from churches around the state to its Standing Rock project each summer. An additional 300 go from Virginia either through the Roanoke association or individual groups.

The work they do includes both the “give a fish” and “teach to fish” varieties, Lynn said.

Maria LynnWMUThere are construction teams, Vacation Bible School teams, feeding and clothing teams and a traveling fair team that sets up bounce houses. All rove between the reservation’s 10 communities.

But going back each year revealed underlying community problems to the visitors, such as teen suicide. So an equestrian ministry was established to work with troubled youth, Lynn said.

It was also learned through experience that sharing the gospel to Native Americans requires them getting to know and trust you, she said.

WMUV Standing Rock“This was disconcerting for our volunteers at first,” she said, adding that some chose not to return.

‘They come home ... with fresh eyes’

“The culture there requires that you build relationships first before they are receptive to hearing anything you have to say,” Lynn said.

Building those relationships, she added, of course requires time that has also changed the mission culture of many of the participating Baptist churches.

Many have developed friendships with reservation residents that are nurtured outside the confines of the mission trips. Lynn said Facebook groups have been created where the Native Americans and their visitors keep track of illnesses and deaths.

Some churches report a renewed enthusiasm in local ministries, she added.

“They come home and see their communities with fresh eyes, as well.”

In Tennessee, Prince said he’s also seen the world with fresh eyes since participating in his first encounter with the Sioux six years ago.

One way that’s happened is through their spirituality. The Sioux all believe in a great creator who unites them and inspires a culture that puts others first.

“We really don’t have that off the reservation,” Prince said. “Our culture is such a me-first culture, and when you go on the reservation, you don’t experience that.”

]]>
Jeff Brumley Missions Wed, 10 Sep 2014 10:32:44 -0400
Missionaries serving refugees fleeing Mid-east violence exercise extra sensitivity http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/29156-missionaries-serving-isis-syria-refugees-need-extra-sensitivity http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/29156-missionaries-serving-isis-syria-refugees-need-extra-sensitivity Refugees, like these Syrians in Jordan, are fleeing into nations around Iraq and Syria. (UN photo)
Serving war-ravaged refugees, including indigenous Christian groups, in the Middle East requires extra cultural and religious sensitivity among missionaries living in cultures that do not value religious freedom, experts say. 

By Jeff Brumley

As complicated and sensitive as the situation in the Middle East is for Western governments, it is just as tricky for Christian organizations with missionaries in the region.

The region historically hostile to evangelism and ministry has become increasingly perilous for Baptist and other Christians as civil wars and terrorist groups like ISIS have driven terrified civilians from Iraq and Syria.

And because thousands of Orthodox and other eastern Christians are among the thousands of terrified refugees fleeing into neighboring nations, missionaries must be sensitive and careful about how they minister to those groups.

“There’s so much we have to be in touch with in the region when we think about ministry to and among either Christians or Muslims in that context,” said Rob Nash, a dean and professor of missions and world religions at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.

Missionaries working in the Middle East and northern Africa have always faced government restrictions on their activities, including bans from proselytizing. Socially the practice is also taboo in those cultures.

RobNashMUG

“You always live with that challenge,” Nash said.

But those prohibitions against seeking to convert Muslims also apply in some areas against seeking to convert Arab Christians to Protestant traditions, Nash said.

Even when that’s not the case, Protestant Christian missionaries must set aside beliefs about the inadequacy of ancient, indigenous Christians when ministering to them as refugees, he said.

And that can be especially hard for evangelicals, added Nash, a former global missions coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“Evangelicals have to guard against the tendency of wanting to proselytize Christians,” he said. “That’s one of their biggest challenges.”

It’s a challenge some organizations and their partners and missionaries in the region are trying to embrace.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has been working through existing ministries and its own field personnel to minister to refugees fleeing Middle Eastern civil wars and other conflicts.

According to an internal global missions document provided by the CBF, that effort includes increasing funding to regional ministries and missionaries who “avoid cookie-cutter approaches and Western bias” in their work.

“They can also explore opportunities to leverage resources brought in by other agencies and groups to increase the impact in their chosen ministry locations,” according to the February 2014 document.

Among those locations are a pre-existing ministry in Lebanon, for which $25,000 was being sought, and $10,000 to expand the efforts of a couple working with refugees who have fled to Turkey.

ABPnews/Herald, which is not identifying those missionaries to avoid jeopardizing their safety, was told by the couple in Turkey that they are seeing increasing numbers of the Yazidis religious minority fleeing ISIS in Syria.

A group of churches in Turkey is supplying refugee camps and “we are assisting this effort with donations of … money, clothing, and other items,” one of the missionaries in Turkey said via email.

In Lebanon, the CBF-supported missionaries are supporting a women’s group that includes Bible study and food donations, a school for refugee children and a food project.

“The prayerful lives of field personnel and partners in direct contact with Syrians and their needs will shape the direction of the response,” the CBF missions document says about the ministries in Lebanon.

But wherever they are in the Middle East, field personnel constantly struggle with cultures where religious freedom is not a shared value, said Nell Green, a CBF missionary who has worked in a number of Muslim nations.

“It’s hard to explain to someone in a free, Western culture where you can just say whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want,” Green said.

It requires an awareness of an extreme antipathy to any outward signs and symbols of non-Muslim faiths. Missionaries must also be careful how they speak, Green said.

nellgreen

Working in those environments also requires an extreme sensitivity and openness to the Holy Spirit, Green said, to be prepared for those subtle opportunities to share the faith.

Green said Americans and others often become angry at such limitations. But she reminds them it’s simply the same insensitivity that drives opposition to Muslims in the U.S.

And the Western value of religious freedom is easily overcome by missionaries who see the great human needs in the countries where they are serving, Green said.

But the price they pay is real, she added.

“You do have to be careful and there are people watching you.” 

]]>
Refugees, like these Syrians in Jordan, are fleeing into nations around Iraq and Syria. (UN photo)
Serving war-ravaged refugees, including indigenous Christian groups, in the Middle East requires extra cultural and religious sensitivity among missionaries living in cultures that do not value religious freedom, experts say. 

By Jeff Brumley

As complicated and sensitive as the situation in the Middle East is for Western governments, it is just as tricky for Christian organizations with missionaries in the region.

The region historically hostile to evangelism and ministry has become increasingly perilous for Baptist and other Christians as civil wars and terrorist groups like ISIS have driven terrified civilians from Iraq and Syria.

And because thousands of Orthodox and other eastern Christians are among the thousands of terrified refugees fleeing into neighboring nations, missionaries must be sensitive and careful about how they minister to those groups.

“There’s so much we have to be in touch with in the region when we think about ministry to and among either Christians or Muslims in that context,” said Rob Nash, a dean and professor of missions and world religions at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.

Missionaries working in the Middle East and northern Africa have always faced government restrictions on their activities, including bans from proselytizing. Socially the practice is also taboo in those cultures.

RobNashMUG

“You always live with that challenge,” Nash said.

But those prohibitions against seeking to convert Muslims also apply in some areas against seeking to convert Arab Christians to Protestant traditions, Nash said.

Even when that’s not the case, Protestant Christian missionaries must set aside beliefs about the inadequacy of ancient, indigenous Christians when ministering to them as refugees, he said.

And that can be especially hard for evangelicals, added Nash, a former global missions coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“Evangelicals have to guard against the tendency of wanting to proselytize Christians,” he said. “That’s one of their biggest challenges.”

It’s a challenge some organizations and their partners and missionaries in the region are trying to embrace.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has been working through existing ministries and its own field personnel to minister to refugees fleeing Middle Eastern civil wars and other conflicts.

According to an internal global missions document provided by the CBF, that effort includes increasing funding to regional ministries and missionaries who “avoid cookie-cutter approaches and Western bias” in their work.

“They can also explore opportunities to leverage resources brought in by other agencies and groups to increase the impact in their chosen ministry locations,” according to the February 2014 document.

Among those locations are a pre-existing ministry in Lebanon, for which $25,000 was being sought, and $10,000 to expand the efforts of a couple working with refugees who have fled to Turkey.

ABPnews/Herald, which is not identifying those missionaries to avoid jeopardizing their safety, was told by the couple in Turkey that they are seeing increasing numbers of the Yazidis religious minority fleeing ISIS in Syria.

A group of churches in Turkey is supplying refugee camps and “we are assisting this effort with donations of … money, clothing, and other items,” one of the missionaries in Turkey said via email.

In Lebanon, the CBF-supported missionaries are supporting a women’s group that includes Bible study and food donations, a school for refugee children and a food project.

“The prayerful lives of field personnel and partners in direct contact with Syrians and their needs will shape the direction of the response,” the CBF missions document says about the ministries in Lebanon.

But wherever they are in the Middle East, field personnel constantly struggle with cultures where religious freedom is not a shared value, said Nell Green, a CBF missionary who has worked in a number of Muslim nations.

“It’s hard to explain to someone in a free, Western culture where you can just say whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want,” Green said.

It requires an awareness of an extreme antipathy to any outward signs and symbols of non-Muslim faiths. Missionaries must also be careful how they speak, Green said.

nellgreen

Working in those environments also requires an extreme sensitivity and openness to the Holy Spirit, Green said, to be prepared for those subtle opportunities to share the faith.

Green said Americans and others often become angry at such limitations. But she reminds them it’s simply the same insensitivity that drives opposition to Muslims in the U.S.

And the Western value of religious freedom is easily overcome by missionaries who see the great human needs in the countries where they are serving, Green said.

But the price they pay is real, she added.

“You do have to be careful and there are people watching you.” 

]]>
Jeff Brumley Organizations Tue, 02 Sep 2014 14:44:58 -0400
Missions and misconceptions http://baptistnews.com/opinion/columns/item/29122-missions-and-misconceptions http://baptistnews.com/opinion/columns/item/29122-missions-and-misconceptions “Sharing” the gospel is more than sending missionaries. It’s also about receiving a witness from Christians in other places.

By Brett Younger

When I was growing up in Mississippi we sang, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right.” We had to go so “the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright.” People all over the world were waiting for Southern Baptists to come so “Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth.”

Missionaries went to distant lands (any country other than the United States) to encourage native women to wear shirts and pagan men not to eat missionaries. Their primary responsibility was to recite the Four Spiritual Laws and lead the foreigners in the sinners’ prayer — which must be in the Bible somewhere.

These superstars came back from the mission field to show slides on Sunday nights: “This is the market where we bought goat brains — which tastes better than it sounds.” “This is the stream in which we beat our clothes against the rock.” “This is the hut where the chief and his seven wives live.” 

They told heartbreaking stories about children who have never made a Galilean village out of Popsicle sticks! They have never sung “Zacchaeus was a wee little man”!! They do not know the motions to “Deep and Wide”!!!

We were the world’s only hope.

Carol and I finally made it to the mission field. We are 4,700 miles from home serving a congregation with 20 nationalities, 18 denominations, a few six-day creationists and an atheist who comes because he likes the company. 

Santiago Community Church in Santiago, Chile, does missions. The congregation cares for disabled adults and abandoned girls. The church includes people who would not find a place in many churches. Worship is sacred and joyful. Bible study is lively and thoughtful. And, get this: our church in Chile has offering envelopes, but they don’t have a line on which to write your name. I am used to getting credit when I give money — and a tax break.

Carol and I attended a Catholic service in Spanish in a cathedral that was constructed in 1800 (before there were Southern Baptists). We didn’t understand everything, but we recognized “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” — which was not written by a Baptist — Estad por Cristo firmes.

We recited the Nicene Creed — written 1,300 years before Baptists existed — Dios de Dios y Luz de Luz, Muy Dios de Muy Dios. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer, Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos. We shared the Lord’s Supper, Este es el cuerpo de Cristo. Worship is filled with hope. The people are filled with Christ.

I was taught that we need to take Jesus to people who were not blessed by God to be born where we were born, but when I got here I learned they have been worshipping Christ for a long time. They are already following Jesus, many more closely than I am. 

We interpret the gospel through the lens of our environment. Churches make assumptions that are not shared by churches in other cultures. Sometimes the individualism in the United States leads to a “just me and Jesus” faith that neglects community. The Chilean people have an amazing commitment to friends and family. Church functions for many in the United States as a break from their job. In the church I am serving, jobs function for many as a way to live out their faith. 

When we tailor the gospel to fit our desires we end up with a partial gospel. Chileans can’t understand how a “Christian” country could sell handguns at Walmart, a wealthy “Christian” country could allow so many to be homeless, a “Christian” country could support capital punishment, or spend more than half of its discretionary government funding on military purposes.

Maybe sharing the gospel is just that — sharing the gospel — exploring the gospel that is bigger than any country. I will go home to Atlanta with a bigger vision of God and a greater concern for the world.

We have a story to tell to the nations, but the nations have a lot of stories we need to hear. We cannot take God anywhere without discovering that God was there long before we arrived. Missions is the opportunity to listen, learn, and share “the kingdom of love and light.”

]]>
“Sharing” the gospel is more than sending missionaries. It’s also about receiving a witness from Christians in other places.

By Brett Younger

When I was growing up in Mississippi we sang, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right.” We had to go so “the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright.” People all over the world were waiting for Southern Baptists to come so “Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth.”

Missionaries went to distant lands (any country other than the United States) to encourage native women to wear shirts and pagan men not to eat missionaries. Their primary responsibility was to recite the Four Spiritual Laws and lead the foreigners in the sinners’ prayer — which must be in the Bible somewhere.

These superstars came back from the mission field to show slides on Sunday nights: “This is the market where we bought goat brains — which tastes better than it sounds.” “This is the stream in which we beat our clothes against the rock.” “This is the hut where the chief and his seven wives live.” 

They told heartbreaking stories about children who have never made a Galilean village out of Popsicle sticks! They have never sung “Zacchaeus was a wee little man”!! They do not know the motions to “Deep and Wide”!!!

We were the world’s only hope.

Carol and I finally made it to the mission field. We are 4,700 miles from home serving a congregation with 20 nationalities, 18 denominations, a few six-day creationists and an atheist who comes because he likes the company. 

Santiago Community Church in Santiago, Chile, does missions. The congregation cares for disabled adults and abandoned girls. The church includes people who would not find a place in many churches. Worship is sacred and joyful. Bible study is lively and thoughtful. And, get this: our church in Chile has offering envelopes, but they don’t have a line on which to write your name. I am used to getting credit when I give money — and a tax break.

Carol and I attended a Catholic service in Spanish in a cathedral that was constructed in 1800 (before there were Southern Baptists). We didn’t understand everything, but we recognized “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” — which was not written by a Baptist — Estad por Cristo firmes.

We recited the Nicene Creed — written 1,300 years before Baptists existed — Dios de Dios y Luz de Luz, Muy Dios de Muy Dios. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer, Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos. We shared the Lord’s Supper, Este es el cuerpo de Cristo. Worship is filled with hope. The people are filled with Christ.

I was taught that we need to take Jesus to people who were not blessed by God to be born where we were born, but when I got here I learned they have been worshipping Christ for a long time. They are already following Jesus, many more closely than I am. 

We interpret the gospel through the lens of our environment. Churches make assumptions that are not shared by churches in other cultures. Sometimes the individualism in the United States leads to a “just me and Jesus” faith that neglects community. The Chilean people have an amazing commitment to friends and family. Church functions for many in the United States as a break from their job. In the church I am serving, jobs function for many as a way to live out their faith. 

When we tailor the gospel to fit our desires we end up with a partial gospel. Chileans can’t understand how a “Christian” country could sell handguns at Walmart, a wealthy “Christian” country could allow so many to be homeless, a “Christian” country could support capital punishment, or spend more than half of its discretionary government funding on military purposes.

Maybe sharing the gospel is just that — sharing the gospel — exploring the gospel that is bigger than any country. I will go home to Atlanta with a bigger vision of God and a greater concern for the world.

We have a story to tell to the nations, but the nations have a lot of stories we need to hear. We cannot take God anywhere without discovering that God was there long before we arrived. Missions is the opportunity to listen, learn, and share “the kingdom of love and light.”

]]>
Brett Younger Seriously Funny Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:17:42 -0400
Texas shelter plans cancelled, but needs continue along border http://baptistnews.com/culture/social-issues/item/29055-texas-shelter-plans-cancelled-but-needs-continue-along-border http://baptistnews.com/culture/social-issues/item/29055-texas-shelter-plans-cancelled-but-needs-continue-along-border Federal agency says no additional temporary shelters will be opened.

By Ken Camp

A federal agency has cancelled plans to provide shelters in Dallas for unaccompanied children who entered the United States from Central America, but family ministries to immigrants continue in Laredo and McAllen on the Texas border.

Judge Clay Jenkins had offered to house up to 2,000 child immigrants at three shelters in Dallas County. However, he announced recently the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services determined no additional temporary shelters will be opened, due to a reduction in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States.

laredo clothing600The Dallas Baptist Association and the Baptist General Convention of Texas had been involved in plans to provide ministries as needed for the Dallas-area shelters, and the BGCT established a For the Children fund to support the effort.

Contributions to that fund will help finance ongoing ministries of the Laredo Baptist Association, Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association.

In the Laredo Baptist Association, Director of Missions Mario Garcia provides immigrant mothers with children transportation to a relief center supported by Catholic Charities, United Methodists and local Baptists. The mothers and children remain at the center until they are able to travel by bus to join family in the United States.

brownsville children prri425At the center, the immigrants can clean up in a Texas Baptist Men disaster relief mobile shower unit, discard their old clothing and receive new clothes. In three months, the center has ministered to 1,650 people.

“We feed them and try to arrange for them to get bus tickets to where they have family in the United States. If they don’t have the money, we will try to provide it,” he said. “We extend the plan of salvation to everyone. We’ve given away some Bibles, but we are down to our last box.”

Garcia provides transportation to and from the bus station in his car, making about 20 trips a day at his own expense, and he is praying for a van to become available.

How you can help

The relief center in Laredo needs diapers, travel-size hygiene items, packable snacks, walking shoes for women (size 5-7), new undergarments for women (sizes 0-6) and children, backpacks or tote bags, wipes and first aid supplies to provide the mothers and children. For more information, call Garcia at 956.693.1136 or lbalaredo@gmail.com, or contact Gerald Davis with Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery at 214.924.6401. Contributions to the For the Children fund will be used to purchase these items and provide Bibles.

Calvary Baptist in McAllen also is ministering to immigrant families — mostly mothers with small children. Texas Baptists in the McAllen area are collecting new undergarments and walking shoes for women and children, backpacks, some toiletries, cleaning supplies and other items for the ministry. For more information about donations, call Vanessa Quintanilla at 956.279.5515.

Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery office is coordinating volunteer teams to help sort donations and work with families in McAllen and Laredo. Spanish-speaking volunteers particularly are needed. For details, call Marla Bearden at 214.537.7358.

Buckner International is collecting shoes for immigrant families in McAllen and Laredo through its Shoes for Orphan Souls program. The greatest need is for children’s sizes 7 to 13 and youth sizes 1 to 3, particularly for children ages 3 to 6. Shoes need to be lace-up, Velcro-strapped or slip-on with closed toes. Buckner already has donated more than 8,000 pairs of children’s shoes to McAllen and Laredo.

“Buckner officials are in regular contact with government officials and partners in the faith-based community to determine if there are other ways to help,” said Scott Collins, Buckner’s vice president of communications. For more information, call 214.939.7179 or click here.

Christian attorneys who can offer pro-bono legal assistance and bilingual speakers who can serve as interpreters also are needed. Lawyers should contact the Human Rights Initiative, Catholic Charities or Justice for our Neighbors. Interpreters should contact Deborah Balyeat at Spanish with a Mission at deborahbalyeat@yahoo.com.

]]>
Federal agency says no additional temporary shelters will be opened.

By Ken Camp

A federal agency has cancelled plans to provide shelters in Dallas for unaccompanied children who entered the United States from Central America, but family ministries to immigrants continue in Laredo and McAllen on the Texas border.

Judge Clay Jenkins had offered to house up to 2,000 child immigrants at three shelters in Dallas County. However, he announced recently the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services determined no additional temporary shelters will be opened, due to a reduction in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States.

laredo clothing600The Dallas Baptist Association and the Baptist General Convention of Texas had been involved in plans to provide ministries as needed for the Dallas-area shelters, and the BGCT established a For the Children fund to support the effort.

Contributions to that fund will help finance ongoing ministries of the Laredo Baptist Association, Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association.

In the Laredo Baptist Association, Director of Missions Mario Garcia provides immigrant mothers with children transportation to a relief center supported by Catholic Charities, United Methodists and local Baptists. The mothers and children remain at the center until they are able to travel by bus to join family in the United States.

brownsville children prri425At the center, the immigrants can clean up in a Texas Baptist Men disaster relief mobile shower unit, discard their old clothing and receive new clothes. In three months, the center has ministered to 1,650 people.

“We feed them and try to arrange for them to get bus tickets to where they have family in the United States. If they don’t have the money, we will try to provide it,” he said. “We extend the plan of salvation to everyone. We’ve given away some Bibles, but we are down to our last box.”

Garcia provides transportation to and from the bus station in his car, making about 20 trips a day at his own expense, and he is praying for a van to become available.

How you can help

The relief center in Laredo needs diapers, travel-size hygiene items, packable snacks, walking shoes for women (size 5-7), new undergarments for women (sizes 0-6) and children, backpacks or tote bags, wipes and first aid supplies to provide the mothers and children. For more information, call Garcia at 956.693.1136 or lbalaredo@gmail.com, or contact Gerald Davis with Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery at 214.924.6401. Contributions to the For the Children fund will be used to purchase these items and provide Bibles.

Calvary Baptist in McAllen also is ministering to immigrant families — mostly mothers with small children. Texas Baptists in the McAllen area are collecting new undergarments and walking shoes for women and children, backpacks, some toiletries, cleaning supplies and other items for the ministry. For more information about donations, call Vanessa Quintanilla at 956.279.5515.

Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery office is coordinating volunteer teams to help sort donations and work with families in McAllen and Laredo. Spanish-speaking volunteers particularly are needed. For details, call Marla Bearden at 214.537.7358.

Buckner International is collecting shoes for immigrant families in McAllen and Laredo through its Shoes for Orphan Souls program. The greatest need is for children’s sizes 7 to 13 and youth sizes 1 to 3, particularly for children ages 3 to 6. Shoes need to be lace-up, Velcro-strapped or slip-on with closed toes. Buckner already has donated more than 8,000 pairs of children’s shoes to McAllen and Laredo.

“Buckner officials are in regular contact with government officials and partners in the faith-based community to determine if there are other ways to help,” said Scott Collins, Buckner’s vice president of communications. For more information, call 214.939.7179 or click here.

Christian attorneys who can offer pro-bono legal assistance and bilingual speakers who can serve as interpreters also are needed. Lawyers should contact the Human Rights Initiative, Catholic Charities or Justice for our Neighbors. Interpreters should contact Deborah Balyeat at Spanish with a Mission at deborahbalyeat@yahoo.com.

]]>
Ken Camp Social Issues Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:43:07 -0400
Taking stock of mission endeavors http://baptistnews.com/opinion/item/29050-taking-stock-of-mission-endeavors http://baptistnews.com/opinion/item/29050-taking-stock-of-mission-endeavors Compelling programming that makes a meaningful impact in the world draws people in. But what about when it doesn’t?

amy butler 2014By Amy Butler

Lately I’ve had occasion to think a little more deeply than usual about churches and mission/social justice programming. It seems to me that collaborative efforts to heal the world are critical parts of life together in Christian community.

And that’s not just because we claim to be followers of Jesus, who was pretty clear about the transformative nature of his message. It’s also true that hands on, faith in action kind of programming is compelling. It draws people to our communities; it’s tangible evidence of vibrant identity.

I can’t even begin to count the times I have heard people say things like, “I looked on the website and I saw all the ways this church was impacting the community, so I had to try attending,” or “I left because I just felt the church was too self-focused — they didn’t care enough about helping the poor.” (Never mind that variations of both comments were said about the same church.)

Compelling, creative programming that reflects the mission and identity of a church while making meaningful impact in the world draws people in.

But what about when it doesn’t? What about when the programs we have at our churches actually don’t impact the community in places of need anymore, don’t reflect the mission and identity of our church as times have changed, and don’t engender much enthusiasm in the congregation as a whole no matter how hard we try to make people care?

Well, we can’t possibly cancel them. We keep programs like that around because we’re afraid of looking selfish or heartless by putting an end to anything that vaguely seems missional; and, let’s just be honest, we’re afraid of the pain that any change, even a necessary change, will inevitably bring.

It could be, for example, that the Crocheted Kleenex Box Cover Ministry, while deeply impactful in 1973, is not engaging the faith of our people or changing the world to the degree it did back then. And, while our efforts to hire staff to crochet Kleenex box covers — since nobody in the church has time or energy to crochet Kleenex box covers anymore — is commendable, perhaps we’ve fallen into the trap so many faith communities encounter. We’re doing mission out of guilt, obligation or fear of change instead of listening for the leadership of God’s Spirit in our midst, watching for organic life, energy and commitment, and responding with courage and creativity.

Think of it this way. When I was a little kid I was fascinated with the people who collected tolls in those little booths along the highway. I thought then that, given how much I loved meeting new people, this career path would be ideal for me.

And that was fine when I was 7 years old.

As I’ve grown and matured, as my faith and my life journey have taken twists and turns, I am not so sure that being a toll collector is exactly where my vocational calling lies anymore. Staying that course in my career for the sake of affirming the professional value of toll collectors everywhere and avoiding change, then, is probably not the best choice for me.

I don’t think it’s all that different with faith communities. God calls us for such a time as this; our job is to be open and welcoming to the movement of God’s Spirit as she blows through our lives and invites us to join her in healing the world. Right now, in this time and place.

With all of that in mind, I thought of three questions we might want to ask ourselves as we take stock of our community’s mission programming:

1. Is this effort founded in a sense of conviction borne out of the gospel message? Adopting popular issues for the sake of advocating issues, urgent though they may be, can fracture communities into various competing camps rather than strengthening conviction, resolve and discipleship. A good question to ask is this: what is our motivation for this effort? If every mission effort we engage is motivated by our foundational conviction that we are called to live as radical followers of Jesus, we become stronger and clearer about who we are and what we’re meant to do in this world, together.

2. Is there a critical mass of people in our community who feel a personal call to engage this issue/effort, who show up to invest time, money and intention in its success and who can articulate for the larger community why and how this effort contributes to the larger community’s identity as followers of Jesus? If not, this particular effort may not be the calling of our community at this time. It’s OK to hear a call to different efforts at different times of our life together.

3. Are we doing this work well? Sometimes well-intentioned communities take on too many projects or issues, causing stress and strain for staff and laity. It’s hard to pare down and focus our ministry efforts because we don’t want to give any good thing up. But the trap of this becomes: we end up lessening our effectiveness in all areas.

We can’t let obligation, change aversion or even the fear of naked Kleenex boxes set the agenda for the work of our churches. There’s too much to be done in this work of healing the world, and we, God’s people, need to do it well.

]]>
Compelling programming that makes a meaningful impact in the world draws people in. But what about when it doesn’t?

amy butler 2014By Amy Butler

Lately I’ve had occasion to think a little more deeply than usual about churches and mission/social justice programming. It seems to me that collaborative efforts to heal the world are critical parts of life together in Christian community.

And that’s not just because we claim to be followers of Jesus, who was pretty clear about the transformative nature of his message. It’s also true that hands on, faith in action kind of programming is compelling. It draws people to our communities; it’s tangible evidence of vibrant identity.

I can’t even begin to count the times I have heard people say things like, “I looked on the website and I saw all the ways this church was impacting the community, so I had to try attending,” or “I left because I just felt the church was too self-focused — they didn’t care enough about helping the poor.” (Never mind that variations of both comments were said about the same church.)

Compelling, creative programming that reflects the mission and identity of a church while making meaningful impact in the world draws people in.

But what about when it doesn’t? What about when the programs we have at our churches actually don’t impact the community in places of need anymore, don’t reflect the mission and identity of our church as times have changed, and don’t engender much enthusiasm in the congregation as a whole no matter how hard we try to make people care?

Well, we can’t possibly cancel them. We keep programs like that around because we’re afraid of looking selfish or heartless by putting an end to anything that vaguely seems missional; and, let’s just be honest, we’re afraid of the pain that any change, even a necessary change, will inevitably bring.

It could be, for example, that the Crocheted Kleenex Box Cover Ministry, while deeply impactful in 1973, is not engaging the faith of our people or changing the world to the degree it did back then. And, while our efforts to hire staff to crochet Kleenex box covers — since nobody in the church has time or energy to crochet Kleenex box covers anymore — is commendable, perhaps we’ve fallen into the trap so many faith communities encounter. We’re doing mission out of guilt, obligation or fear of change instead of listening for the leadership of God’s Spirit in our midst, watching for organic life, energy and commitment, and responding with courage and creativity.

Think of it this way. When I was a little kid I was fascinated with the people who collected tolls in those little booths along the highway. I thought then that, given how much I loved meeting new people, this career path would be ideal for me.

And that was fine when I was 7 years old.

As I’ve grown and matured, as my faith and my life journey have taken twists and turns, I am not so sure that being a toll collector is exactly where my vocational calling lies anymore. Staying that course in my career for the sake of affirming the professional value of toll collectors everywhere and avoiding change, then, is probably not the best choice for me.

I don’t think it’s all that different with faith communities. God calls us for such a time as this; our job is to be open and welcoming to the movement of God’s Spirit as she blows through our lives and invites us to join her in healing the world. Right now, in this time and place.

With all of that in mind, I thought of three questions we might want to ask ourselves as we take stock of our community’s mission programming:

1. Is this effort founded in a sense of conviction borne out of the gospel message? Adopting popular issues for the sake of advocating issues, urgent though they may be, can fracture communities into various competing camps rather than strengthening conviction, resolve and discipleship. A good question to ask is this: what is our motivation for this effort? If every mission effort we engage is motivated by our foundational conviction that we are called to live as radical followers of Jesus, we become stronger and clearer about who we are and what we’re meant to do in this world, together.

2. Is there a critical mass of people in our community who feel a personal call to engage this issue/effort, who show up to invest time, money and intention in its success and who can articulate for the larger community why and how this effort contributes to the larger community’s identity as followers of Jesus? If not, this particular effort may not be the calling of our community at this time. It’s OK to hear a call to different efforts at different times of our life together.

3. Are we doing this work well? Sometimes well-intentioned communities take on too many projects or issues, causing stress and strain for staff and laity. It’s hard to pare down and focus our ministry efforts because we don’t want to give any good thing up. But the trap of this becomes: we end up lessening our effectiveness in all areas.

We can’t let obligation, change aversion or even the fear of naked Kleenex boxes set the agenda for the work of our churches. There’s too much to be done in this work of healing the world, and we, God’s people, need to do it well.

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Amy Butler Talk With the Preacher Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:26:32 -0400
Repenting of Christianity http://baptistnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/29040-repenting-of-christianity http://baptistnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/29040-repenting-of-christianity We’re going to need some folks to help us replace our tired myths with a clearer Truth — a Truth proclaimed in the person of Jesus.

By Greg and Helms Jarrell

Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart centers around the life of Okonkwo, the powerful leader of his clan and their village, one of nine in the Umuofia region of Nigeria. Okonkwo is a fearsome warrior, well-respected among his people. His fierce nature sometimes comes out at the wrong times, injuring and hurting those he loves. His love for and protection of his people against outsiders is just as fierce.

Okonkwo and the people of Umuofia one day come up against a force they are ill-prepared to deal with: missionaries. While the natives are curious about the missionaries, they assume that the white man and his god will soon disappear and leave Umuofia in peace. But things start to fall apart for the villagers. They give an unwanted piece of ancestral land called the Evil Forest to the missionaries, failing to understand that the land will be developed and possessed according to a set of imported principles that sees land as a commodity. Then rumor spreads that “the white man had not only brought a religion but a government.”

The conflict reaches a climax when six villagers agree to a meeting with the missionaries, only to be tricked and then dragged, handcuffed, into court. It is there announced that the proceedings are taking place as they are done “in our own country …, in the dominion of our queen, the most powerful ruler in the world.” The novel from there hurtles toward its haunting ending, the village in tatters and Okonkwo living — and then dying — in desperation.

Things Fall Apart has endured in part because it helps to expose a myth, namely the myth that Western European missionary efforts can be separated from empire-building. With powerful and complex characters and cultures like those of Okonkwo and Umuofia, Achebe shows us the heartbreak and destruction that Christianity has carried around the world as it paved the way for Western economic and political empires.

Such a myth is not the only one we have believed. The mixing of Christian faith and Western imperialism are so tightly intertwined that it is hard to separate one from the other. The idea of “dominion,” misread from the creation accounts, has destroyed our relationships as creatures with the land and water that sustain us. We believe that we can war our way into peace. Our common divisions of liberal and conservative, right and left, mainline and evangelical, are merely different strategies for holding on to power, two sides of the same worthless coin. All of these myths have separated us from God, God’s creation and from one another.

The power we struggle to hold onto is shifting anyway. For Christians in America, we are living in a time where our holds on cultural dominance are eroding. As Stanley Hauerwas has said, “God is killing the church in America, and we damn well deserve it.” We’re going to need some folks to help us see how God killing the church is Good News. And, we’re going to need some folks to help us replace our old, tired myths with a clearer Truth – a Truth proclaimed in the person of Jesus.

Mark Van Steenwyk is one of those folks. In his recent book, The Unkingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance, Van Steenwyk reflects on the power of repentance as both a concept for understanding Christian life, and at the same time a set of practices for living into the way of Jesus. He wants to help us name the myths that American Christianity has accepted, and then to repent of those myths and move in a different direction.

Attempting to name the myths that we have learned to function by is a dangerous task. The one who attempts it risks being labelled a “radical,” being dismissed as “idealistic,” and consequently ignored. This book is risky for that reason, but Van Steenwyk does not flinch. The inclusion of personal narratives that range from funny to moving to downright embarrassing helps to keep the reader engaged and attuned, even when it would be easier to look away. This is not mere theory, but real life.

One particular myth-revealing narrative involves a discussion of immigration, the naming of land and the ongoing struggles of indigenous populations in North America. (This discussion seems especially pertinent given the growing crisis at the U.S./Mexico border.) Van Steenwyk helps unmask the myths around “illegal immigration” and the displacement of native peoples by telling us how the scales fell off his eyes. The only fingers being pointed here are being pointed at the author. Faced with a conversion point, Van Steenwyk, along with his young son, rename a Minneapolis historic site with a more truthful name. They commit to continuing to try to see the world through the eyes of the oppressed, to the fullest extent that they are able. They commit to allowing their neighbors — especially their poor neighbors — to decolonize their imaginations for the sake of the gospel.

In real life, as in Achebe’s vision of Umuofia, the Christianity of Western Europe and the U.S. is enmeshed with imperial power. Because those who live with privilege have such impoverished imaginations of how to live into the Good News, Van Steenwyk has a bold suggestion: repenting of Christianity. By this, he does not mean abandoning the Way of Jesus. Instead, he means confessing the brokenness of our religion. He is “advocating that we let go of beliefs and structures and institutions and buildings and money and stories” that we attach Jesus’s name to, and “ask ‘Is this the way of love?’ or ‘Is this separating me from God and my neighbor?’” What Van Steenwyk wants to invite us to is the “embodiment of a tangible way of love.”

Moving in a different direction is the essence of the biblical notion of repentance. The Hebrew word translated as “repent” means “to turn around.” The image is a powerful one: When walking in the wrong direction, one turns around and walks back in a different one. This is an earthy, physical, creaturely image. Repentance is not thinking different thoughts or believing different ideas. It is moving in a different direction, planting oneself in different soil. It is acting differently, making a different set of choices. Repentance requires a set of practices that can help us live into a new way of thinking and being in the world.

The Unkingdom of God discusses some potential practices that can unmask the myths we have believed. These are not offered as prescriptions, but simply as examples of how one local community has attempted to live more deeply into the way of Jesus. The most memorable of these practices are exemplified in Van Steenwyk’s discussion of his young son. The book is at its most hopeful when Jonas, aged 5, is an active part. He is both teacher and student. He is perhaps the clearest embodiment of the fresh imagination that The Unkingdom invites us into.

Van Steenwyk says, “The kingdom of God breaks into our reality through the lives of the seemingly insignificant.” Walking beside Jonas and his dad, we too can turn around and move again into the way of Love.

]]>
We’re going to need some folks to help us replace our tired myths with a clearer Truth — a Truth proclaimed in the person of Jesus.

By Greg and Helms Jarrell

Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart centers around the life of Okonkwo, the powerful leader of his clan and their village, one of nine in the Umuofia region of Nigeria. Okonkwo is a fearsome warrior, well-respected among his people. His fierce nature sometimes comes out at the wrong times, injuring and hurting those he loves. His love for and protection of his people against outsiders is just as fierce.

Okonkwo and the people of Umuofia one day come up against a force they are ill-prepared to deal with: missionaries. While the natives are curious about the missionaries, they assume that the white man and his god will soon disappear and leave Umuofia in peace. But things start to fall apart for the villagers. They give an unwanted piece of ancestral land called the Evil Forest to the missionaries, failing to understand that the land will be developed and possessed according to a set of imported principles that sees land as a commodity. Then rumor spreads that “the white man had not only brought a religion but a government.”

The conflict reaches a climax when six villagers agree to a meeting with the missionaries, only to be tricked and then dragged, handcuffed, into court. It is there announced that the proceedings are taking place as they are done “in our own country …, in the dominion of our queen, the most powerful ruler in the world.” The novel from there hurtles toward its haunting ending, the village in tatters and Okonkwo living — and then dying — in desperation.

Things Fall Apart has endured in part because it helps to expose a myth, namely the myth that Western European missionary efforts can be separated from empire-building. With powerful and complex characters and cultures like those of Okonkwo and Umuofia, Achebe shows us the heartbreak and destruction that Christianity has carried around the world as it paved the way for Western economic and political empires.

Such a myth is not the only one we have believed. The mixing of Christian faith and Western imperialism are so tightly intertwined that it is hard to separate one from the other. The idea of “dominion,” misread from the creation accounts, has destroyed our relationships as creatures with the land and water that sustain us. We believe that we can war our way into peace. Our common divisions of liberal and conservative, right and left, mainline and evangelical, are merely different strategies for holding on to power, two sides of the same worthless coin. All of these myths have separated us from God, God’s creation and from one another.

The power we struggle to hold onto is shifting anyway. For Christians in America, we are living in a time where our holds on cultural dominance are eroding. As Stanley Hauerwas has said, “God is killing the church in America, and we damn well deserve it.” We’re going to need some folks to help us see how God killing the church is Good News. And, we’re going to need some folks to help us replace our old, tired myths with a clearer Truth – a Truth proclaimed in the person of Jesus.

Mark Van Steenwyk is one of those folks. In his recent book, The Unkingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance, Van Steenwyk reflects on the power of repentance as both a concept for understanding Christian life, and at the same time a set of practices for living into the way of Jesus. He wants to help us name the myths that American Christianity has accepted, and then to repent of those myths and move in a different direction.

Attempting to name the myths that we have learned to function by is a dangerous task. The one who attempts it risks being labelled a “radical,” being dismissed as “idealistic,” and consequently ignored. This book is risky for that reason, but Van Steenwyk does not flinch. The inclusion of personal narratives that range from funny to moving to downright embarrassing helps to keep the reader engaged and attuned, even when it would be easier to look away. This is not mere theory, but real life.

One particular myth-revealing narrative involves a discussion of immigration, the naming of land and the ongoing struggles of indigenous populations in North America. (This discussion seems especially pertinent given the growing crisis at the U.S./Mexico border.) Van Steenwyk helps unmask the myths around “illegal immigration” and the displacement of native peoples by telling us how the scales fell off his eyes. The only fingers being pointed here are being pointed at the author. Faced with a conversion point, Van Steenwyk, along with his young son, rename a Minneapolis historic site with a more truthful name. They commit to continuing to try to see the world through the eyes of the oppressed, to the fullest extent that they are able. They commit to allowing their neighbors — especially their poor neighbors — to decolonize their imaginations for the sake of the gospel.

In real life, as in Achebe’s vision of Umuofia, the Christianity of Western Europe and the U.S. is enmeshed with imperial power. Because those who live with privilege have such impoverished imaginations of how to live into the Good News, Van Steenwyk has a bold suggestion: repenting of Christianity. By this, he does not mean abandoning the Way of Jesus. Instead, he means confessing the brokenness of our religion. He is “advocating that we let go of beliefs and structures and institutions and buildings and money and stories” that we attach Jesus’s name to, and “ask ‘Is this the way of love?’ or ‘Is this separating me from God and my neighbor?’” What Van Steenwyk wants to invite us to is the “embodiment of a tangible way of love.”

Moving in a different direction is the essence of the biblical notion of repentance. The Hebrew word translated as “repent” means “to turn around.” The image is a powerful one: When walking in the wrong direction, one turns around and walks back in a different one. This is an earthy, physical, creaturely image. Repentance is not thinking different thoughts or believing different ideas. It is moving in a different direction, planting oneself in different soil. It is acting differently, making a different set of choices. Repentance requires a set of practices that can help us live into a new way of thinking and being in the world.

The Unkingdom of God discusses some potential practices that can unmask the myths we have believed. These are not offered as prescriptions, but simply as examples of how one local community has attempted to live more deeply into the way of Jesus. The most memorable of these practices are exemplified in Van Steenwyk’s discussion of his young son. The book is at its most hopeful when Jonas, aged 5, is an active part. He is both teacher and student. He is perhaps the clearest embodiment of the fresh imagination that The Unkingdom invites us into.

Van Steenwyk says, “The kingdom of God breaks into our reality through the lives of the seemingly insignificant.” Walking beside Jonas and his dad, we too can turn around and move again into the way of Love.

]]>
Greg and Helms Jarrell Commentaries Tue, 05 Aug 2014 15:59:40 -0400
Campbellsville coaches share expertise, gospel on mission trip http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/28978-campbellsville-u-coaches-share-expertise-gospel-on-mission-trip http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/28978-campbellsville-u-coaches-share-expertise-gospel-on-mission-trip Coaches from the Kentucky-based Baptist school are in Costa Rica holding coaching clinics, working in orphanages and knocking on doors to share the gospel.

By Jeff Brumley

A group of Campbellsville University coaches are stepping off the sidelines and onto the frontlines of evangelism during a seven-day mission trip to Costa Rica, leaders of the Baptist school has announced.

The 32-member team's trip is in conjunction with SCORE International, a Tennessee-based ministry that coordinates short-term mission trips.

As part of their assignment, coaches will coordinate athletic clinics with Costa Rican universities and private schools. The CU group also will work in orphanages, feed the homeless and wage door-to-door evangelism campaigns.

“We are excited about the opportunity that has been placed before us to share our love of Christ, and our love for sports, with the people of Costa Rica,” CU Athletics Director Rusty Hollingsworth said in a news release from the university based in Campbellsville, Ky. “Our hope is to make a positive impact on their lives, but to also experience the community and collegiality of those we work with every day.”

The trip was organized by Jim Hardy, assistant director of athletics, who said its benefits will not be for Costa Ricans alone.

Coaches in prayer“This can impact this athletic department for years to come, and that's what we’re praying for,” Hardy said. “We’re very excited about what’s going to happen and the kind of impact this kind of trip can have on these coaches, but more importantly the kids that come into this university and athletics.”

The coaches received a send-off July 17 from the university community, including athletes, trainers and athletic department supporters.

“I am excited about this trip and very pleased to see the strength of commitment to share the love of Jesus Christ through the mission outreach of our talented coaches at Campbellsville University,” CU President Michael Carter said in a release about the ceremony.

]]>
Coaches from the Kentucky-based Baptist school are in Costa Rica holding coaching clinics, working in orphanages and knocking on doors to share the gospel.

By Jeff Brumley

A group of Campbellsville University coaches are stepping off the sidelines and onto the frontlines of evangelism during a seven-day mission trip to Costa Rica, leaders of the Baptist school has announced.

The 32-member team's trip is in conjunction with SCORE International, a Tennessee-based ministry that coordinates short-term mission trips.

As part of their assignment, coaches will coordinate athletic clinics with Costa Rican universities and private schools. The CU group also will work in orphanages, feed the homeless and wage door-to-door evangelism campaigns.

“We are excited about the opportunity that has been placed before us to share our love of Christ, and our love for sports, with the people of Costa Rica,” CU Athletics Director Rusty Hollingsworth said in a news release from the university based in Campbellsville, Ky. “Our hope is to make a positive impact on their lives, but to also experience the community and collegiality of those we work with every day.”

The trip was organized by Jim Hardy, assistant director of athletics, who said its benefits will not be for Costa Ricans alone.

Coaches in prayer“This can impact this athletic department for years to come, and that's what we’re praying for,” Hardy said. “We’re very excited about what’s going to happen and the kind of impact this kind of trip can have on these coaches, but more importantly the kids that come into this university and athletics.”

The coaches received a send-off July 17 from the university community, including athletes, trainers and athletic department supporters.

“I am excited about this trip and very pleased to see the strength of commitment to share the love of Jesus Christ through the mission outreach of our talented coaches at Campbellsville University,” CU President Michael Carter said in a release about the ceremony.

]]>
Jeff Brumley Organizations Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:17:45 -0400
The complexity of short-term missions http://baptistnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/28967-the-complexity-of-short-term-missions http://baptistnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/28967-the-complexity-of-short-term-missions It has to be more than religious tourism.

By Blake Hart

Lately I’ve had the privilege to be part of great discussions about how to improve our current short-term mission praxis. Many of us know that something is wrong with the way we do short-term work, and thankfully there are a handful of people who are trying to find solutions that will make short-term missions worth it.

To explain the problems with short-term missions would take a lot more space than is available here, but to be concise there’s a problem for those who go and those who receive mission teams. Those who go often claim that the experiences transform them; they are not the same when they return. The problem is that research shows otherwise. There is no substantial difference in giving or in further mission service between those who go on short-term trips and those who don’t.

On the other end of short-term mission, we’ve learned that many of our practices harm those we hope to help. We often spend more money to go and do work of a lesser caliber than it would have cost to employ someone locally to do better quality work. We’ve also learned that many of our handout-based mission trips have served to damage the dignity of the people we hope to serve as well as create situations of dependency. In some countries, entire markets have been created to cater to the desires of short-term teams in order to try to get their money and their handouts by offering work that fits the needs of most teams but is in no way needed or helpful to the recipient.

All of this has led some to renounce short-term work and focus only on sending full-time missionaries. This is understandable, but we live in a short-term minded world, where those who want to go will go. We also live in a world where travel is readily available and many people will travel, whether it’s with a church group or not. So it’s beneficial to improve upon our understanding and methodology of Christian travel experiences.

To do that some have said that what is important is to turn the trip into a discipleship experience, or a pilgrimage, and in doing so they hope to make a lasting impact on those who go. Others have tried to work hard to make sure that sustainable practices are taking place on the field, so that those who receive the work are blessed. At times these two sides work independently of each other without much contact. What we really need is for these two sides to work in harmony, each relying on and building upon the work of the other.

There are two sides to every mission, and if either side is malfunctioning the short-term experience will fail. If the team going has not prepared for the experience devotionally, theologically and culturally, they can do much harm on the field, regardless of the missiology of the organization receiving them. I’ve seen this happen first hand where a team went on a trip with an organization that truly focused on responsible missiology, but that team did minimal preparation and did not follow the organization’s guidelines. As a result an entire village was damaged.

On the other hand if a team takes the months necessary to prepare for a short-term mission trip through cultural, theological and devotional studies, but the organization that receives them does not take any of these best-practices into consideration, the work done may be in vain. In addition to that, the preparation the group undertook may be seen as useless by the very team that devoted months to the process.

What we need then, are mission teams and mission-sending agencies which are devoted to honoring both sides of the mission experience. Both the teams that go and the organizations that receive need to be devoted to cultural, theological and devotional preparation, as well as sustainable, empowering missiology on the field.

This is a much more complex understanding of short-term missions that requires more of our time, energy and focus. This sort of mission can’t be planned in a couple of months, but if we don’t take seriously the complexity of short-term missions, we run the risk of harming more than we help and turning our mission work into nothing more than religious tourism.

]]>
It has to be more than religious tourism.

By Blake Hart

Lately I’ve had the privilege to be part of great discussions about how to improve our current short-term mission praxis. Many of us know that something is wrong with the way we do short-term work, and thankfully there are a handful of people who are trying to find solutions that will make short-term missions worth it.

To explain the problems with short-term missions would take a lot more space than is available here, but to be concise there’s a problem for those who go and those who receive mission teams. Those who go often claim that the experiences transform them; they are not the same when they return. The problem is that research shows otherwise. There is no substantial difference in giving or in further mission service between those who go on short-term trips and those who don’t.

On the other end of short-term mission, we’ve learned that many of our practices harm those we hope to help. We often spend more money to go and do work of a lesser caliber than it would have cost to employ someone locally to do better quality work. We’ve also learned that many of our handout-based mission trips have served to damage the dignity of the people we hope to serve as well as create situations of dependency. In some countries, entire markets have been created to cater to the desires of short-term teams in order to try to get their money and their handouts by offering work that fits the needs of most teams but is in no way needed or helpful to the recipient.

All of this has led some to renounce short-term work and focus only on sending full-time missionaries. This is understandable, but we live in a short-term minded world, where those who want to go will go. We also live in a world where travel is readily available and many people will travel, whether it’s with a church group or not. So it’s beneficial to improve upon our understanding and methodology of Christian travel experiences.

To do that some have said that what is important is to turn the trip into a discipleship experience, or a pilgrimage, and in doing so they hope to make a lasting impact on those who go. Others have tried to work hard to make sure that sustainable practices are taking place on the field, so that those who receive the work are blessed. At times these two sides work independently of each other without much contact. What we really need is for these two sides to work in harmony, each relying on and building upon the work of the other.

There are two sides to every mission, and if either side is malfunctioning the short-term experience will fail. If the team going has not prepared for the experience devotionally, theologically and culturally, they can do much harm on the field, regardless of the missiology of the organization receiving them. I’ve seen this happen first hand where a team went on a trip with an organization that truly focused on responsible missiology, but that team did minimal preparation and did not follow the organization’s guidelines. As a result an entire village was damaged.

On the other hand if a team takes the months necessary to prepare for a short-term mission trip through cultural, theological and devotional studies, but the organization that receives them does not take any of these best-practices into consideration, the work done may be in vain. In addition to that, the preparation the group undertook may be seen as useless by the very team that devoted months to the process.

What we need then, are mission teams and mission-sending agencies which are devoted to honoring both sides of the mission experience. Both the teams that go and the organizations that receive need to be devoted to cultural, theological and devotional preparation, as well as sustainable, empowering missiology on the field.

This is a much more complex understanding of short-term missions that requires more of our time, energy and focus. This sort of mission can’t be planned in a couple of months, but if we don’t take seriously the complexity of short-term missions, we run the risk of harming more than we help and turning our mission work into nothing more than religious tourism.

]]>
Blake Hart Commentaries Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:37:32 -0400
CBF names global missions coordinator http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/28640-cbf-names-global-missions-coordinator http://baptistnews.com/ministry/organizations/item/28640-cbf-names-global-missions-coordinator Steven Porter, who served as executive director of Touching Miami with Love 2001-2005, has been named new CBF coordinator of global missions.

By Bob Allen

A missions strategist with experience in urban ministry has been named global missions coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Steven Porter, 41, a lecturer in missions and global Christianity at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, begins work at the Fellowship’s Decatur, Ga., office on Sept. 1.

Ordained in the National Baptist Convention, USA, and commissioned by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Porter presently teaches graduate courses in Christian mission, world Christianity and Muslim-Christian relations.

He worked seven years in urban ministries at Touching Miami with Love, a CBF-affiliated ecumenical ministry serving families and the homeless community in Miami, including five years as executive director.

His work and studies have connected him to CBF state and regional organizations including CBF of Florida, the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, CBF Heartland, CBF of Texas and CBF of North Carolina. He currently is the chair-elect of the CBF Missions Council.

steven porter“Steven is the right person to lead CBF’s global mission efforts into the future,” said CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter. “His commitment to collaborative mission efforts, to recognizing and replicating best practices and to investing in long-term mission engagement has me excited about where we’ll go and what impact we will make together as a Fellowship and with our mission partners.”

Porter, hired by Paynter at the recommendation of an advisory search committee, said he looks forward to building on the organization’s strengths, while focusing on greater collaboration with local churches and the congregational ministries side of CBF.

“There are incredible people giving their lives away every day in some of the most difficult contexts imaginable through CBF global missions,” Porter said. “But the same can be said of Christians in CBF congregations.”

“We must do a better job of learning from each other within and beyond the Fellowship to leverage that wisdom and wise practices to advance God’s reign in the world,” he said.

Porter will be the seventh person to lead the global missions enterprise of the moderate Baptist group formed in 1990.

The Fellowship appointed its first missionary couple in 1992. Keith Parks retired early as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board to direct the CBF’s fledgling missionary enterprise in 1993.

Parks retired at age 71 in 1999, and Gary Baldridge, a 20-year veteran of Baptist missions, was named interim coordinator for global missions. Baldridge initially declined to be considered for the permanent post, but during a search process agreed to be co-coordinator with his wife, Barbara. Barbara Baldridge was the first woman to fill a top administrative position for the CBF.

Gary Baldridge, who worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming a missionary resigned in 2004 to return to a career in writing. Barbara Baldridge was elected global missions coordinator on Feb. 17, 2005. Ten weeks later she announced her resignation, citing unspecified personal reasons, effective May 31.

Jack Snell, active in CBF missions both as a pastor and Coordinating Council member and then as appointed field personnel, assumed interim leadership while a search committee set out to find a permanent successor.

A year later the search landed on Rob Nash, who grew up the child of missionaries in the Philippines and served as dean and associate professor of religion and international studies at Shorter College in Rome, Ga.

Elected June 21, 2006, Nash served six years before returning to the classroom as professor of missions and world religions and associate dean at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in the summer of 2012.

Already in transition with the pending retirement of CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal, the search for Nash’s successor was put on hold until the naming of a new coordinator. Jim Smith, a veteran missionary serving as director of field ministries, took over as interim coordinator July 1, 2012.

After her election as executive coordinator on Feb. 21, 2013, Suzii Paynter gave immediate attention to implementing a massive restructuring of the organization approved following a two-year efficiency study adopted in 2012 and relocating the Fellowship’s offices from Mercer University to downtown Decatur, Ga.

Last October the CBF announced formation of a 12-member search committee, led by chair Linda Jones, missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina, to locate a permanent global missions coordinator.

Jones said Porter is precisely what CBF global missions needs at this time.

“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship needs a shared vision for mission engagement for the future,” she said. “This, the committee knew, requires someone with strategic vision that understands CBF and the local church and that understands our field personnel — their passion, commitment and the difficulties they face on the mission field. It requires an understanding of our culture and what we need as an organization to lead us forward to effective, strategic, innovative and holistic ministry. In the end, the committee believed Porter was the right person at the right time to lead CBF global missions into the future.”

A native of Carthage, Mo., Porter is a graduate of William Jewell College and Candler School of Theology. He is currently in the process of finishing a doctorate from Duke University Divinity School. He and his wife, Jodi, are parents of a daughter, Ruth, about to turn 3.

-- With reporting by Jeff Huett of CBF communications.

See related commentary:

Re-thinking mission for a global church

 

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Steven Porter, who served as executive director of Touching Miami with Love 2001-2005, has been named new CBF coordinator of global missions.

By Bob Allen

A missions strategist with experience in urban ministry has been named global missions coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Steven Porter, 41, a lecturer in missions and global Christianity at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, begins work at the Fellowship’s Decatur, Ga., office on Sept. 1.

Ordained in the National Baptist Convention, USA, and commissioned by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Porter presently teaches graduate courses in Christian mission, world Christianity and Muslim-Christian relations.

He worked seven years in urban ministries at Touching Miami with Love, a CBF-affiliated ecumenical ministry serving families and the homeless community in Miami, including five years as executive director.

His work and studies have connected him to CBF state and regional organizations including CBF of Florida, the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, CBF Heartland, CBF of Texas and CBF of North Carolina. He currently is the chair-elect of the CBF Missions Council.

steven porter“Steven is the right person to lead CBF’s global mission efforts into the future,” said CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter. “His commitment to collaborative mission efforts, to recognizing and replicating best practices and to investing in long-term mission engagement has me excited about where we’ll go and what impact we will make together as a Fellowship and with our mission partners.”

Porter, hired by Paynter at the recommendation of an advisory search committee, said he looks forward to building on the organization’s strengths, while focusing on greater collaboration with local churches and the congregational ministries side of CBF.

“There are incredible people giving their lives away every day in some of the most difficult contexts imaginable through CBF global missions,” Porter said. “But the same can be said of Christians in CBF congregations.”

“We must do a better job of learning from each other within and beyond the Fellowship to leverage that wisdom and wise practices to advance God’s reign in the world,” he said.

Porter will be the seventh person to lead the global missions enterprise of the moderate Baptist group formed in 1990.

The Fellowship appointed its first missionary couple in 1992. Keith Parks retired early as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board to direct the CBF’s fledgling missionary enterprise in 1993.

Parks retired at age 71 in 1999, and Gary Baldridge, a 20-year veteran of Baptist missions, was named interim coordinator for global missions. Baldridge initially declined to be considered for the permanent post, but during a search process agreed to be co-coordinator with his wife, Barbara. Barbara Baldridge was the first woman to fill a top administrative position for the CBF.

Gary Baldridge, who worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming a missionary resigned in 2004 to return to a career in writing. Barbara Baldridge was elected global missions coordinator on Feb. 17, 2005. Ten weeks later she announced her resignation, citing unspecified personal reasons, effective May 31.

Jack Snell, active in CBF missions both as a pastor and Coordinating Council member and then as appointed field personnel, assumed interim leadership while a search committee set out to find a permanent successor.

A year later the search landed on Rob Nash, who grew up the child of missionaries in the Philippines and served as dean and associate professor of religion and international studies at Shorter College in Rome, Ga.

Elected June 21, 2006, Nash served six years before returning to the classroom as professor of missions and world religions and associate dean at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in the summer of 2012.

Already in transition with the pending retirement of CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal, the search for Nash’s successor was put on hold until the naming of a new coordinator. Jim Smith, a veteran missionary serving as director of field ministries, took over as interim coordinator July 1, 2012.

After her election as executive coordinator on Feb. 21, 2013, Suzii Paynter gave immediate attention to implementing a massive restructuring of the organization approved following a two-year efficiency study adopted in 2012 and relocating the Fellowship’s offices from Mercer University to downtown Decatur, Ga.

Last October the CBF announced formation of a 12-member search committee, led by chair Linda Jones, missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina, to locate a permanent global missions coordinator.

Jones said Porter is precisely what CBF global missions needs at this time.

“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship needs a shared vision for mission engagement for the future,” she said. “This, the committee knew, requires someone with strategic vision that understands CBF and the local church and that understands our field personnel — their passion, commitment and the difficulties they face on the mission field. It requires an understanding of our culture and what we need as an organization to lead us forward to effective, strategic, innovative and holistic ministry. In the end, the committee believed Porter was the right person at the right time to lead CBF global missions into the future.”

A native of Carthage, Mo., Porter is a graduate of William Jewell College and Candler School of Theology. He is currently in the process of finishing a doctorate from Duke University Divinity School. He and his wife, Jodi, are parents of a daughter, Ruth, about to turn 3.

-- With reporting by Jeff Huett of CBF communications.

See related commentary:

Re-thinking mission for a global church

 

]]>
Bob Allen Organizations Wed, 30 Apr 2014 12:36:50 -0400
Water missions surge as churches see spiritual connection http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/28553-water-missions-surge-as-churches-see-spiritual-connection http://baptistnews.com/faith/missions/item/28553-water-missions-surge-as-churches-see-spiritual-connection Clean water is increasingly seen as a spiritual and environmental issue. (Living Water International photo)
Seeing the connection between the environment, economies and the basic need for water is luring an increasing number of churches to delve into domestic and international water ministry.

By Jeff Brumley

Water, it seems, is all the rage.

Experts say the demand for global mission projects focused on providing clean water has become unquenchable as churches increasingly see water as one of the most efficient means of meeting physical and spiritual needs.

Also driving the trend have been efforts by a wide range of players to promote the connection between meeting those needs and the spreading of the gospel. In the process, congregations and individuals who have become involved in water-providing ministries see their impact goes beyond water to their own spiritual transformation.

‘A basic human right’

Boiled down to its essence, water is becoming the great unifier in world missions, said David Harding, coordinator for international disaster response for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“People can identify with the need for water,” Harding said. “When people learn of other people drinking contaminated water, they think ‘how can we allow that?’”

David HardingCBF has focused much of its water missions efforts through disaster response because the lack of safe water is seen as a quiet-but-deadly crisis, Harding said.

Interest among U.S. churches has tended to come across the political and denominational spectrum, Harding added, when groups see the impact for themselves.

“People are coming to see clean water as a basic human right.”

‘Raising awareness’

Driving that view of water have been a number of developments over the past 20-30 years, including a United Nations-driven initiative in the 1990s to combat global sanitation and unsafe drinking issues.

The attention raised by the UN got a lot of churches’ and ministries’ attention, said Paul Darilek, senior director of communications for Living Water International, a Texas-based ministry that oversees water projects in 23 nations.

“That raised awareness that water is the first step in all development,” he said. “The world recognized that and got excited about that.”

LWI-Logo

The more recent popularity of anti-consumerism Advent Conspiracy project, which encourages participants to contribute to missions in lieu of Christmas gifts, has helped direct even more money and energy into water-based ministries, Darilek said.

That project and the efforts of ministries like Living Water then helped individuals and groups see that a host of other human needs can eventually be met by first addressing clean-water issues, Darilek said.

Once water is flowing in communities that before didn’t have it, crops and animals can be nurtured, which in turn may help improve local diets. Some villages may charge money for access in order to finance water system maintenance, and from those efforts local economies can become self-sustaining.

‘A natural partner’

Churches have come to see that water ministry goes far beyond showing up for a week somewhere in Africa and drilling a well.

“That caught the eye of a lot of churches.”

It’s also caught the eye of Millennials and the unchurched, and anecdotal evidence suggests participation in water ministries may be a way of attracting younger generations, Darilek added.

“Some people might say, ‘I don’t believe in God but if this is what Christians are doing, then I want to be a part of it,’” he said. “It’s a witness not only in the [global] communities that we serve, but right here in our back yard.”

And it’s made a difference, he said. Since the 1990s the number of people without access to safe drinking water has dropped from an estimated 1.1 billion to around 783 million.

“Churches have been a natural partner” in helping achieve that reduction, he said.

Spiritual, environmental issue

Not all of the focus in water-related ministry is international. Years of regional droughts and flooding around the nation have focused attention on domestic water shortages.

“Water, whether too little or too much, is becoming an increasingly important issue and one that speaks most to people environmentally,” said Stacey Kenneally of GreenFaith, a New Jersey-based environmental stewardship ministry.

Kenneally directs programs to certify church conservation efforts, including those aimed at water consumption.

StaceyKenneallyThose training programs intentionally connect water usage to spiritual practices in worship and beyond, she said. Hymns and readings with water themes are promoted, as are prayers and other actions promoting water as a basic human rights issue.

With churches, it helps that water is a major theme in Christianity.

“There is an element of water in all traditions — it’s quoted in Scripture, its used in many rituals and it resonates very deeply,” Kenneally said. “Once they see that it is a spiritual as well as an environmental issue, they know they need to take action around it.”

As a result, churches are responding strongly, she added.

Creating awareness

And Baptists are at the forefront of those efforts, said Harding.

While he and others said they could not provide hard numbers, the interest in water missions among Baptist denominations and congregations is continuing to surge.

Former CBF moderator Colleen Burroughs, founder and president of Watering Malawi, has been a stalwart in advocating for clean water and other systemic solutions to poverty and hunger in that east African nation.

The effort began in 2005 when drought struck 5 million Malawians with starvation and death. Burroughs and her husband, David, responded by organizing thousands of Passport campers to raise money and start a grassroots movement that has continued and grown to include churches and communities across the U.S.

At CBF, the disaster-relief model is being used because leaders recognize that the lack of healthy water impacts every other facet of life in affected communities.

“Water is life, that’s how we look at it,” Harding said. “It touches everything else — health care, education, the economy.”

In places ranging from Africa to the Caribbean, CBF field personnel use water projects as the basic building blocks for restoring local communities to self-sufficiency. That in turn helps break the dependency model that marked decades of mission work around the world.

As American congregations have seen this, they have become increasingly interested in building long-term relationships with recovering communities.

“Water has become the link that creates awareness,” Harding said. “Water may be triggering the interest, but we really are dealing with poverty issues and finding ways to honor and dignify people.”

]]>
Clean water is increasingly seen as a spiritual and environmental issue. (Living Water International photo)
Seeing the connection between the environment, economies and the basic need for water is luring an increasing number of churches to delve into domestic and international water ministry.

By Jeff Brumley

Water, it seems, is all the rage.

Experts say the demand for global mission projects focused on providing clean water has become unquenchable as churches increasingly see water as one of the most efficient means of meeting physical and spiritual needs.

Also driving the trend have been efforts by a wide range of players to promote the connection between meeting those needs and the spreading of the gospel. In the process, congregations and individuals who have become involved in water-providing ministries see their impact goes beyond water to their own spiritual transformation.

‘A basic human right’

Boiled down to its essence, water is becoming the great unifier in world missions, said David Harding, coordinator for international disaster response for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“People can identify with the need for water,” Harding said. “When people learn of other people drinking contaminated water, they think ‘how can we allow that?’”

David HardingCBF has focused much of its water missions efforts through disaster response because the lack of safe water is seen as a quiet-but-deadly crisis, Harding said.

Interest among U.S. churches has tended to come across the political and denominational spectrum, Harding added, when groups see the impact for themselves.

“People are coming to see clean water as a basic human right.”

‘Raising awareness’

Driving that view of water have been a number of developments over the past 20-30 years, including a United Nations-driven initiative in the 1990s to combat global sanitation and unsafe drinking issues.

The attention raised by the UN got a lot of churches’ and ministries’ attention, said Paul Darilek, senior director of communications for Living Water International, a Texas-based ministry that oversees water projects in 23 nations.

“That raised awareness that water is the first step in all development,” he said. “The world recognized that and got excited about that.”

LWI-Logo

The more recent popularity of anti-consumerism Advent Conspiracy project, which encourages participants to contribute to missions in lieu of Christmas gifts, has helped direct even more money and energy into water-based ministries, Darilek said.

That project and the efforts of ministries like Living Water then helped individuals and groups see that a host of other human needs can eventually be met by first addressing clean-water issues, Darilek said.

Once water is flowing in communities that before didn’t have it, crops and animals can be nurtured, which in turn may help improve local diets. Some villages may charge money for access in order to finance water system maintenance, and from those efforts local economies can become self-sustaining.

‘A natural partner’

Churches have come to see that water ministry goes far beyond showing up for a week somewhere in Africa and drilling a well.

“That caught the eye of a lot of churches.”

It’s also caught the eye of Millennials and the unchurched, and anecdotal evidence suggests participation in water ministries may be a way of attracting younger generations, Darilek added.

“Some people might say, ‘I don’t believe in God but if this is what Christians are doing, then I want to be a part of it,’” he said. “It’s a witness not only in the [global] communities that we serve, but right here in our back yard.”

And it’s made a difference, he said. Since the 1990s the number of people without access to safe drinking water has dropped from an estimated 1.1 billion to around 783 million.

“Churches have been a natural partner” in helping achieve that reduction, he said.

Spiritual, environmental issue

Not all of the focus in water-related ministry is international. Years of regional droughts and flooding around the nation have focused attention on domestic water shortages.

“Water, whether too little or too much, is becoming an increasingly important issue and one that speaks most to people environmentally,” said Stacey Kenneally of GreenFaith, a New Jersey-based environmental stewardship ministry.

Kenneally directs programs to certify church conservation efforts, including those aimed at water consumption.

StaceyKenneallyThose training programs intentionally connect water usage to spiritual practices in worship and beyond, she said. Hymns and readings with water themes are promoted, as are prayers and other actions promoting water as a basic human rights issue.

With churches, it helps that water is a major theme in Christianity.

“There is an element of water in all traditions — it’s quoted in Scripture, its used in many rituals and it resonates very deeply,” Kenneally said. “Once they see that it is a spiritual as well as an environmental issue, they know they need to take action around it.”

As a result, churches are responding strongly, she added.

Creating awareness

And Baptists are at the forefront of those efforts, said Harding.

While he and others said they could not provide hard numbers, the interest in water missions among Baptist denominations and congregations is continuing to surge.

Former CBF moderator Colleen Burroughs, founder and president of Watering Malawi, has been a stalwart in advocating for clean water and other systemic solutions to poverty and hunger in that east African nation.

The effort began in 2005 when drought struck 5 million Malawians with starvation and death. Burroughs and her husband, David, responded by organizing thousands of Passport campers to raise money and start a grassroots movement that has continued and grown to include churches and communities across the U.S.

At CBF, the disaster-relief model is being used because leaders recognize that the lack of healthy water impacts every other facet of life in affected communities.

“Water is life, that’s how we look at it,” Harding said. “It touches everything else — health care, education, the economy.”

In places ranging from Africa to the Caribbean, CBF field personnel use water projects as the basic building blocks for restoring local communities to self-sufficiency. That in turn helps break the dependency model that marked decades of mission work around the world.

As American congregations have seen this, they have become increasingly interested in building long-term relationships with recovering communities.

“Water has become the link that creates awareness,” Harding said. “Water may be triggering the interest, but we really are dealing with poverty issues and finding ways to honor and dignify people.”

]]>
Jeff Brumley Missions Wed, 09 Apr 2014 08:57:21 -0400
Former WMU leader Willene Pierce dies http://baptistnews.com/ministry/people/item/28500-former-wmu-leader-willene-pierce-dies http://baptistnews.com/ministry/people/item/28500-former-wmu-leader-willene-pierce-dies The founder and recently retired executive director of Native American LINK died unexpectedly at the Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City.

By Bob Allen

Willene Pierce, a former leader in Woman’s Missionary Union and the Baptist World Alliance, who in 1997 launched a full-time ministry with Native American women, died March 18.

willene piercePierce, 71, accepted Christ in 1952 during a revival in a Native American church while vacationing with her grandparents in Oklahoma. She worked as Baptist Women/Baptist Young Women director for Arkansas WMU from 1974 until 1982 before leading Maryland/Delaware WMU as executive director from 1982 until 1995.

She served briefly as director of the Women's Department of Baptist World Alliance between 1995 and 1997 before returning to Oklahoma to launch a ministry called The Native American LINK, Inc. (Living in Neighborly Kindness).

The ministry became best known for its Native Praise Choir, representing over 20 tribes singing the languages of the Cherokee, Muscogee and Choctaw tribes, which performed at the Baptist World Congress in England in 2005.

Pierce retired as executive director of LINK in 2013 but continued as a consultant on the executive board. Last year she was recognized for 50 years of service among Native American women and honored at the annual session of the Oklahoma Indian Evangelism Conference for service to the Native American Baptist work.

Pierce lived in Springdale, Ark. She is survived by her mother, Wenonah Meyer, four sisters and a brother and numerous nieces and nephews. Memorials may be made in her name to the Native American LINK, P.O. Box 470974, Tulsa, OK 74147.

]]>
The founder and recently retired executive director of Native American LINK died unexpectedly at the Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City.

By Bob Allen

Willene Pierce, a former leader in Woman’s Missionary Union and the Baptist World Alliance, who in 1997 launched a full-time ministry with Native American women, died March 18.

willene piercePierce, 71, accepted Christ in 1952 during a revival in a Native American church while vacationing with her grandparents in Oklahoma. She worked as Baptist Women/Baptist Young Women director for Arkansas WMU from 1974 until 1982 before leading Maryland/Delaware WMU as executive director from 1982 until 1995.

She served briefly as director of the Women's Department of Baptist World Alliance between 1995 and 1997 before returning to Oklahoma to launch a ministry called The Native American LINK, Inc. (Living in Neighborly Kindness).

The ministry became best known for its Native Praise Choir, representing over 20 tribes singing the languages of the Cherokee, Muscogee and Choctaw tribes, which performed at the Baptist World Congress in England in 2005.

Pierce retired as executive director of LINK in 2013 but continued as a consultant on the executive board. Last year she was recognized for 50 years of service among Native American women and honored at the annual session of the Oklahoma Indian Evangelism Conference for service to the Native American Baptist work.

Pierce lived in Springdale, Ark. She is survived by her mother, Wenonah Meyer, four sisters and a brother and numerous nieces and nephews. Memorials may be made in her name to the Native American LINK, P.O. Box 470974, Tulsa, OK 74147.

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Bob Allen People Mon, 24 Mar 2014 10:15:57 -0400