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December 2009 Issue

Every penny given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is used to support more than 5,500 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. This year's offering goal is $175 million. The 2009 Lottie Moon offering theme is "Who's Missing? Whose Mission?" It focuses on overcoming barriers to hearing and accepting the Gospel in various parts of the world and the Great Commission Jesus gives all Christians to "go and make disciples of all nations."

Passers by hardly notice the mosque on this active street corner in Fuerteventura, Spain. No crescent moons, no Arabic writing, no minarets piercing the sky — only dust and exhaust-stained apartments.

But looks can be deceiving. Behind a black, metal door, stairs descend to what appears to be an old, three-bedroom apartment. At the foot of the stairs stands a floor-to-ceiling shoe shelf. To the left is a trough with two water spigots where followers wash their feet in ...

At first glance it doesn't look like a cross. Diamond-shaped with a handle, it is obscured beneath decoration and ornate carvings.

Religious leaders carry these crosses as they guide more than 42 million Ethiopians each week in praying, singing, and memorizing Scripture. This may not sound that different from many churches in the United States.

But look closer.

Behind the rituals is a religion built on the worship of saints, angels — and even demons. Most Ethiopians consider themselves Christians because their religion includes biblical teachings and an understanding that Jesus is god — but only one of many. They believe more than a dozen paths lead to heaven.

Their religion is similar to the diamond-shaped cross, says Ed,* an International Mission Board worker who has shared the Gospel among these Ethiopian people for more than a decade.

"They've added so much decoration and embellishment to [their religion] that th...

In the past twenty years, central China has been growing cities at a record pace. In fact, 223 villages and towns in central China have reached a population of more than 1 million each, with an additional 250 topping 400,000. The growth presents new opportunities for rural people, who are moving to urban areas in record numbers.

"Salaries are much higher in the cities, so these cities are experiencing an influx of people," says Naomi,* a Christian worker. "One city may have a population of about 1 million people, but it might grow to 6 million in just a few years."

Still, Christian witness in these areas is less than 0.01 percent. It truly constitutes a pocket of lostness — a constellation of lost cities.

"In addition to the cities, we try to work with the villages because many of [these people] will go to the cities," Naomi explains. "If we can reach the family, then they will send a believer's influe...

Spiritual darkness pervades many places — not just isolated or "closed" regions, but some of the most crowded cities on earth.

I found two pockets of darkness — one relatively small, the other enormous — while exploring the challenge of global urbanization over the last two years. They represent many others.

The municipal dump at Dandora, just south of Nairobi, Kenya, stretches thirty acres. Thirty acres of smoking, untreated garbage, snaking like a miniature mountain range through shantytowns where some 600,000 people live. Every day trucks dump another 2,000 tons onto the stinking pile.

The dump symbolizes how the more affluent precincts of Nairobi deal with places like Dandora — out of sight (or smell), out of mind.

"Around here, people get a raw deal," says Billy Oyugi, associate pastor of Dandora Baptist Church.

The typical Dandora family consists of a mother, a father (often absent), and fiv...

When we think of Christmas, one of the words that naturally comes to mind is the word "gifts." People will frequently ask one another, "What gifts are you hoping to get for Christmas?" The giving and receiving of gifts is a wonderful part of the Christmas season. No doubt it reflects the presentation of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child.

I have many wonderful memories of Christmas gifts I received as a child. My dad bought me a new football uniform virtually every year. Little wonder that I ended up playing football through college.

One of my neighbors gave me a beautiful toy truck. My brother rode his bike to retrieve the gift from the neighbor who lived about a mile away. On the way home, he dropped the present breaking the truck into small pieces. ...

Confusion over issues of gender runs rampant among churches across America today.
International Mission Board

Sacrifice and support have always sustained the Southern Baptists Convention's International Mission Board (IMB), and today that sacrifice and support is more evident — and more critical — than ever in fueling its mission to reach what it calls "pockets of lostness."

Southern Baptists are obeying the global requirement of the Great Commission through the IMB as it strives to share the Gospel with people from every language, tribe, and nation. Southern Baptists support the ministries of the IMB through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. These gifts enable IMB missionaries to find strategic and creative ways to accomplish their mission, even in difficult places.

During this past year, the Baptist partners with whom our missionaries work closely, coupled with the direct work of our missionaries, engaged ninety-three new people groups with the Gospel, started 24,650 new churches, an...

Profiles of Cooperation

by Marilyn Stewart

First Baptist Church
Hollis, Oklahoma

Members of First Baptist Church in Hollis, Oklahoma, have an edge when it comes to understanding the work of the Cooperative Program: A living CP picture steps into the pulpit every Sunday.

First Baptist's pastor, Jim Westmoreland, was born and raised on the mission field, the son of now-retired International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries James and Nema Westmoreland who served in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

"I can put faces to the Cooperative Program for my church," said Westmoreland, who emphasizes to the congregation that the ...

Nearly four hundred World Changers and PowerPlant participants traveled to the "Show Me" state this summer to show the city of St. Louis the love of Christ.

"This is the first time ever that we have had both PowerPlant and World Changers in the same city the same week," noted Jonathan Wilson, strategy development coordinator for the five-day mission opportunities organized by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

World Changers provides students and adults with opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others, most often by replacing roofs and tackling other repairs on low-income housing or by holding backyard Bible clubs and other neighborhood events in partnership with local churches and community organizations.

PowerPlant is designed to engage students in church planting and evangelism. PowerPlant participants learn church planting principles and evangelism skills each morning, then engage in related ministry ac...

It took me four hours to swim home," says Mac Reyes, youth pastor at International Baptist Church of Manila.

He and Derick Jacinto, the church administrator, were at a church meeting on September 26 when Typhoon Ketsana began pouring out its wrath on Metro Manila.

As news spread of widespread flooding throughout the Asian megacity, the group was advised to stay put. But a few hours later, Reyes received a frantic text message from his wife that the water was rising rapidly in their home. He set out for home — on foot.

The way home for him was down Marcos Highway, a four-lane expressway that runs through northeast Manila, where the flooding was at its worst. Along with hundreds of others, Reyes pushed toward home. As night fell, water was up to his chest.

"I became a sort of traffic cop on Marcos Highway," Reyes said. "There was no electricity, and I used the light from my cell phone to help direct people to the safest path.&q...

We Hardly Even Noticed

In September, Dr. Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, challenged Southern Baptists to pray for "just one more soul" in 2009-2010. If every pastor won just one more soul this year, the SBC would see an increase of almost 45,000 baptisms through the ministry of each pastor's personal evangelism. If each church joined its pastor, crying out to the Lord for just one more soul, we would see an additional 90,000 individuals ushered into the Kingdom. Our baptisms could potentially increase from 342,198 to over 430,000 in a single year — not through a massive denominational campaign, but through a simple grassroots movement where every pastor and every church cries out to the Lord for "just one more soul."

In 1998, each cooperating Baptist church with the Southern Baptist Convention baptized, on average, ten people. By 2003, this number had declined to nine. By 2008, this number had further declined to eight. (These numbers are rounded to...

Several questions remain after long talks, compromises, and at least one blunt sermon prior to the merger of a black church and a white church in Louisville.

But both pastors say they have the Holy Spirit and a spirit of cooperation to succeed.

More than 560 people sang, prayed, and rejoiced August 23 as St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, a mostly black congregation, and Shively Heights Baptist Church, a mostly white congregation, merged into St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights.

Denominational leaders praised the union as a model for racial reconciliation.

"Today is a great example of the Gospel at work changing lives, congregations, and communities, with impact extending far beyond today and far beyond Louisville," said Larry Martin, a consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention who has long worked with St. Paul's pastor, Lincoln Bingham, in Christian racial reconciliation efforts.

The location of the combined churche...

Evangelicals Engaging Emergent
A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement
William Henard & Adam Greenway

While plenty of books related to the conversations as well as controversies surrounding the emergent church have surfaced in recent years, no comprehensive evangelical assessment of the movement has been published until now. Evangelicals Engaging Emergent draws from a broad spectrum of conservative evangelicalism to serve as a clear, informative, fair, and respectful guide for those desiring to know what "emergent" means, why it originated, where the movement is going, what issues concern emergent believers, and where they sometimes go wrong ...

Here we are again, can you believe it? Christmas is just around the corner! Stores decorated, just waiting for our money, and we are excited to give it to them because we know it will make a loved one happy. (At least we're hoping it will.) All the talk is around food and gifts. "Whose house will we eat at this year, and what in the world will we get Grandma? She doesn't need a thing!" That sounds familiar, doesn't it? But what about Uncle Jack? Every year he comes with the family, and we're careful not to talk too much about religion around him or he gets a little "huffy." But, you know, what if this past year the Holy Spirit has been working on him, without us even knowing it? Maybe his old fishing and hunting buddies have been talking to him about the Lord — you never know. Persistence is rewarded, as you will see in this testimony from Roy Ray, a member of First Baptist Church in Centerton, Arkansas, where Stuart Bell is pastor.

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Upon returning from his first circus a young boy commented, "Once you've been to a circus, you'll never enjoy a prayer meeting again." Such sentiment implies that Christianity is like going to the dentist; it is good for you but it will be a miserable experience. The stereotype of a joyless, guilt-filled religion surrounds us. It is said that a priest once commented to Groucho Marx, "Groucho, I want to shake your hand for all the joy you have brought into the world." Groucho responded, "I want to shake your hand for all the joy you have taken out of the world." It is hard to be upright without being uptight. Righteousness easily spills over into self-righteousness. It has always been that way. The religious people of Jesus' day didn't think the joke about the log in their eye was very funny. A sense of humor is a matter of viewpoint, and it takes work to see around the log in our own eye, but it's worth it.

Laughter is good for you. ...

Racing to Pass 'Gay Marriage' by Year's End

Having faced stinging losses on Election Day, supporters of "gay marriage" in New York and New Jersey are looking to regain momentum and racing to legalize such relationships by year's end.

The clock is ticking.

In New York, Democratic Gov. David Paterson is pressuring the Democratic-controlled Senate to send him a bill by year's end, before the calendar hits 2010 and legislators become less prone to pass a controversial bill in an election year.

In New Jersey — which just held an election — supporters of "gay marriage" are rushing to send outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine a bill before he leaves office Januar...