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December 2011 Issue

As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, He wept. He thought about the people within its walls and said, If you knew this day what would bring you peace. . . (Luke 19:42). He knew within hours He'd be crucified by the very people for whom He wept.

Would Jesus still look over the city and weep 2,000 years later?

Most believe He would. Jerusalem is a city where stress runs high, and the strain of so many people practicing so many religions in such a small area makes the tension palpable. They seek a blessing or a healing or some connection with God through well-meaning, but mistaken, devotion.

Bitter division resides just below the surface. Christians, Jews, Muslims—each group would be pleased if the other two simply exited the city walls and disappeared into the barren countryside.

Rebecca* considers herself nonreligious. She's a bus driver expecting her first child and is married to a devout Jew. She says the relationship works. She ponders the question: Wha...

Jesus gave His followers a task—to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). He commissioned believers to be His heart, His hands, and His voice to share the Gospel with the world.

Many people tease me about my large number of favorite Scripture verses and favorite songs. I think it goes without saying that John 3:16 is the favorite verse of more people than we can imagine. This often quoted verse gives us a precious motivation for missions. In John 3:16, we see that our Lord is the Great Giver. In the phrase "so loved" we see the Great Motive. In the designation of the recipient of this love being the world, we see the Great Mission Field. By the way, it is followed by the Greatest Act, the Greatest Gift, and the Greatest Opportunity.

As we come to the season of increased emphasis upon international missions, let me state my unequivocal support for the work of our International Mission Board and the churches of our Convention in reaching this world for Christ. Let us pray like never before. Let us give like never before. Let us go like never before. Above all, let us not use a difficult economy as an excuse for a lack of passion and burden for the lost of this world.

During this season of giving, I encourage churches ...

Unity Baptist Church has been ministering in its "Jerusalem" for most of its ten-year history. Providing dinner for the Salvation Army Men's Shelter twice a month, volunteering at a pregnancy support center, sending supplies to Appalachia schoolchildren, and hosting Bible camps and sports camps are just a few of the church's ongoing ministries.

But in 2010, this small, Prince George, Virginia, church realized the Lord had something more for them to do.

Through Lottie Moon Christmas Offering materials, they became keenly aware of people groups across the globe that had never heard the Gospel. There are more than 6,700 unreached people groups— those who are less than 2 percent evangelical Christian. About 3,800 of them are unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs) with no active church-planting strategy currently under way.

"That really sparked our passion for taking the Gospel to those people groups," said church missions leader Lezlie Ellis.

Unity's missions team invited an IMB missionary to speak to t...

Luke's Vision for Church Life in Acts
People often view the Acts of the Apostles as a book about "going and telling"—a book that describes the spread of witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth. But Acts is also about "going and gathering."

In January 2012, Southern Baptists are once again being called to a time of prayer and spiritual awakening. The date adopted by the Convention for this emphasis is the last Sunday in January. But pastors are encouraged to select a time that best fits the ministry needs of their local church to lead their churches to focused prayer. This year's Southern Baptist Convention Call to Prayer is an opportunity to focus on praying missionally.

"I can't think of a better way for our churches to start the New Year than to be in prayer for our families, our churches, our new church plants, and our efforts to reach the unreached people groups of the world," said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. "NAMB is pleased to have the privilege to coordinate this effort this year. I can't think of anything more essential in our efforts to reach North America and the world."

NAMB will provide resources to assist churches in participating in the prayer emphasis.

"We are encouragin...

January 15, 2012

Over the past twenty-five years, Southern Baptists have adopted ten resolutions at SBC annual meetings championing the sanctity of human life by stating their opposition to abortion and by promoting pro-life alternatives. In addition to expressing their concern for the safety and well-being of unborn children, Convention messengers have advocated for the welfare of the children's mothers and fathers. A resolution adopted in 2003 states, in part:

RESOLVED, That we offer our prayers, our love, and our advocacy for women and men who have been abused by abortion and the emotional, spiritual, and physical aftermath of this horrific practice; affirming that the gospel of Jesus Christ grants complete forgiveness for any sin, including that of abortion; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge our Southern Baptist churches to remain vigilant in the protection of human life by preaching the whole counsel of God on matters of human sexuality and the sanctity of life, by encouraging and empowering Sout...

Burger King's recent closing in Varnville, South Carolina, was the clearest sign yet that the local economy is less than vibrant.

But despite the loss of the franchise fast-food restaurant and other dismal economic indicators following the repeated downsizing of Westinghouse, the town's major employer, First Baptist Church continued over the last five years to increase its giving to missions through the Cooperative Program from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The Cooperative Program is the way Southern Baptist churches provide for missions and ministry in state conventions, across North America, and throughout the world.

"God has blessed our church even in tough economic times," said Thomas Kelly Jr., pastor of First Varnville. "It's just a testimony: if you're faithful to God, He will be faithful to you.

"The Cooperative Program helps us do more than we could do by ourselves," Kelly continued. "We tell our folks that the money they give doesn't...

The "1% Challenge" is simply a request to every Southern Baptist pastor and every Southern Baptist church to increase their Cooperative Program gifts by 1 percent of their church's undesignated contributions.

In 2010, churches forwarded just over $500 million dollars in CP contributions to the states . . .

  • This represents 5.62 percent of the almost $9 billion dollars churches received in tithes and undesignated offerings from their members.
  • If every church in the Convention increased its contributions to the Cooperative Program by 1 percent of its undesignated receipts, the states would receive (cumulatively) an additional $89 million.
  • At the current level of state/national convention distribution of CP contributions, states would retain $55 million of these new dollars, providing funds for a wide variety of cooperative ministries in the states.
  • States would forward an additional $34 million in CP to the SBC for distribution as follows: IMB, $17.07 million; NAMB<...

Editor's Note: Chuck Bentley, CEO, Crown Financial Ministries, writes and blogs regularly about the mounting national debt, and the accompanying, ever increasing frustration which personal debt brings to families and individuals. In the following article Chuck puts a fine point on the cause for failure in the area of personal and family finances and identifies key preventative steps to avoid going in the wrong direction with money and possessions. Crown Financial Ministries is a partner with the SBC in the area of stewardship, providing good and godly resources for SBC churches, families, and individuals. To learn more about Crown Financial Ministries go to www.crown.org.

Without question, family financial problems seem to increase dramatically during economic slumps. Are the financial problems caused by economic slumps? Generally not.

With rare exception, family financial problems have begun long before an economic slump, perhaps as early as childhood.

Ignori...

When Bill died, I went to his home to visit with his wife and daughter. We went to the bedroom to get away from the crowd of friends who had gathered. Bill had a wooden fish on his wall with the message "Wishin' I was Fishin'."

Bill Beaird and his wife, Evelyn, were long-time members of First Baptist Church, Garland, Texas. Evelyn taught a Hispanic Sunday school class for a number of years. She touched many lives as a deacon's wife and led many Hispanic people to faith in Christ.

Bill taught fifth-grade boys in Sunday school for 55 years. His annual goal was that every boy in his class would be saved before he entered sixth grade. Each year, Bill systematically visited in the home and witnessed to every boy in his class. He modeled what it means to be committed to the Bible teaching ministry of the church. He was also involved as an equipper in the church's outreach program, Continuing Witness Training. He never missed being an equipper for any session.

The year before he...

Compiled by Roger S. Oldham

"You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures." —Psalm 16:11

His headstone reads,

Charles Everett Harper, Sr.
December 30, 1930–September 12, 2011

Linda Ellis's popular poem, "The Dash," reminds us that what matters most in life is "the dash between those years."

The obituary fleshes out the dash a little more, "A longtime resident of Baton Rouge, Charles celebrated a glorious union with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Monday, September 12, 2011."

It Is God's Plan and Delight to Save the Lost
When Charlie returned from the Korean War, he and his young bride Doris moved back to his home state of Louisiana, settling in Baton Rouge.

One evening their doorbell rang. Two ladies—Marie Bozeman and her sister-in-law, Jenette Kilmon—part of Goodwood Baptist Ch...

What do you do when ethnic and socioeconomic changes around your church cause attendance to drop by thousands?

That was the question facing Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker, Georgia.

The congregation answered by turning its sprawling campus into a multinational hub, where eleven different churches meet each week, most of which are non-Anglo. In the process, it has experienced God's blessing and established a new model for church revitalization.

Appropriately, the word Rehoboth is a Hebrew term meaning "broad places" and conveys the idea of a place where all people are welcome.

"This is an extraordinarily viable model where there are churches with space and an abundance of it in a location where new churches need to be started—whether those be language churches, multiethnic churches, multigenerational churches, or even additional Anglo churches. There is no reason we should not be leveraging those resources," said Troy Bush, Rehoboth's pastor of administration since August. "In fact, I think it is poor stewardship when ...

In China, a professed atheistic nation of 1.3 billion people, Christianity is growing at a staggering pace. Missiologists estimate that there were approximately three million Christians in China in the early 1970s. Today, estimates place the number of believers at approximately 130 million believers—an estimate some say would increase significantly if an accurate count could be made of believers worshipping in house churches.

Yet even with the explosive growth aided by the rise of the information age, Chinese believers have lacked an accurate Bible translation in contemporary language.

Based on the framework of the HCSB translation process, LifeWay in 2006 began a collaborative project with The Asia Bible Society and GrapeCity, a multifaceted software company in Asia, to produce the Chinese Standard Bible (CSB), an accurate and readable translation of the Bible in modern Mandarin Chinese.

According to Aaron Ma, director of Bible translation projects for the Asia Bible Society, the New Testam...

I heard of a young boy who never spoke until he was seven. One day his mother brought him a cup of soup that was so hot it burned his tongue. He let out a string of words and told her she should have known better. In a shocked and trembling voice, she asked him why he had waited seven years to talk. He told her that up until that moment everything had been okay.

As I observe family-life in America, I'm not sure everything is okay. We seem to be producing a Peter Pan generation in which no one grows up. Some call it the boomerang generation. Many children never leave home, letting mom and dad support them. Even worse, if they do move out, they don't raise their own kids. They send them back to their parents' home! Each week I encounter grandparents who are raising their children's children.

I taught my Raising Terrific Kids In Turbulent Times throughout my ministry. It was even a successful video series. To be perfectly biased, it has some great material. I have realized, though, tha...

Week of Prayer and Mission Study for International Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (December 4-11)