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December 2012 Issue

Southern Baptist pastors have high opinions of the Convention’s Cooperative Program, according to a study conducted by LifeWay Research

The survey of 1,066 SBC pastors found 81 percent agree the Cooperative Program fuels an aggressive global enterprise of reaching the unreached people groups around the world. Similarly, 80 percent say the Cooperative Program provides partnership opportunities for local, state, and national missions.

The study also indicates that pastors’ support for the Cooperative Program does have its limits. One in five pastors (19 percent) say the strategies of the SBC entities that receive Cooperative Program dollars are not moving in the appropriate direction and that SBC entities are not using their contributions effectively. However, the majority (55 percent) agrees the SBC entities supported by the Cooperative Program are moving in an appropriate direction. And 52 percent say the entities are using their contributions effectively.

Seventy-three percent of pastors say the Cooperative Program su...

Editor’s Note: Will Stuart is a photojournalist specializing in religion and culture. His colleague Rich* is doing research among twenty-four indigenous tribes along a river in South America. These tribes are among hundreds of unengaged, unreached people groups in South America.

From the edge of the mountain, I can see the stark contrast of another world. Far below, the sun is setting and lights are coming on across a modern city at the edge of the jungle. Just behind us are the seven villages of an indigenous people in the forests of South America.

A CONVERSATION WITH THEO

It has been a good day. Rich and I had been warned our journey might be difficult, even dangerous, that many indigenous tribes are not open to outsiders. There was even uncertainty whether or not we would be allowed on their land, but our reception thus far has only been welcoming.

Theo,* medicine man for one village, greeted us warmly. He introduced us to his chief who was comfor...

A TINY SPIRITUAL GIANT

One hundred years after her death, the sacrifice of early missionary Lottie Moon still inspires Southern Baptists to give millions to the international missions offering named in her honor.

Lottie Moon was a four-foot, three-inch spiritual giant who pushed the absolute limits of service in China.

In October 1873, at age thirty-three, she arrived in China as a career missionary. With the exception of occasional visits home to America, she remained in China for the rest of her life, serving until she had given her all—spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Almost forty years later, having nothing left to give, she died en route to the United States.

CHALLENGING TODAY'S CHINESE

Moon’s life of sacrifice for the sake of God’s Kingdom and the salvation of the Chinese people speaks loudly to Chinese Christians today.

A reenactment of her life during a mission convention at Grace Baptist Church, Taiwan’s largest Baptist church, earlier this year,...

One billion is a big number. It would take you thirty-seven years to count to one billion at one number a second. Seven billion is an even larger and more significant number. That is the number of people currently inhabiting the globe. In 1804, the world reached its first billion in population. Now, we are adding about one billion to our population every twelve years.

THIS IS THE HARVEST!
Jesus wants us to lift up our eyes and see—7 billion people, 330 million in the US and 6.67 billion outside our borders. More than half of the world’s population has only a slight chance to hear the Gospel. In fact, 1.7 billion people are likely to die without hearing the Name of Jesus!

AND THEY ARE DYING!
Two people die each second. The equivalent of a city of 150,600 people disappears into eternity every twenty-four hours. Without Christ they will enter Hell, forever lost. This is why Jesus said ". . . the fields . . . they are white unto harvest . . . " (John 4:35, KJV).

...

Last Christmas more than ten thousand East Asian people heard the Gospel, many for the first time, thanks to the witness of three hundred Baptist Collegiate Ministry students who participated in the “Christmas in China” project.

An annual cultural exchange program with local schools in China, Christmas in China uses the increasing popularity of Christmas in the Far East as a bridge to the Gospel as Southern Baptist college students spend part of their winter break in Asia building friendships and explaining the true meaning of Christmas to Chinese students.

Because of western influence in Asian countries, markets have begun to offer Christmas trees, decorations, and even gaily wrapped candies for the season.

“[Christmas] is for the new generation,” college-aged Rose told a visiting student as they shared a cab. “The older generation has never cared to learn about the meaning of this holiday, but [the younger generation] celebrates it.”

In the classroom, Rebecca,* an American student, to...

Perhaps you remember the frequent episode in the Charles Schultz cartoon Peanuts.

Lucy: Say, Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football. How about practicing a few place kicks? I’ll hold the ball and you come running and kick it.

Charlie Brown: Oh brother. I don’t mind your dishonesty half as much as I mind your opinion of me. You must think I’m stupid.

Lucy: Oh come on, Charlie Brown.

CB: No.

Lucy: I’ll hold it steady.

CB: [hesitates] No!

Lucy: Pleeeease?

CB: You just want me to come running up to kick that ball so you can pull it away and see me land flat on my back and kill myself.

Lucy: This time you can trust me. See? Here’s a signed document testifying that I promise not to pull it away.

CB<...

My childhood pastor made a double impact on me. Though I was young, I remember his compelling manner in the pulpit. He kept my attention and intently raised my interest in the Gospel.

There came a time, however, when I noticed things had changed. My parents stopped taking me to church business meetings. Before long, Pastor James (not his real name) was no longer our pastor.

Some months later I was walking across the church parking lot with a friend. He told me Pastor James had left his family and run off with another woman. Recalling his influence on my young life, I did not believe him. When we got in the car to leave church that night I asked my parents if what my friend said was true. It was. I was stunned. I could not imagine how a “man of God” could fall into such sin.

Since then I have seen many good men stumble and fall. Why? Can we know?

WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST
As a pastor for more than thirty years, I now understand more about life, ministry, and the pitfalls that await any follower of Christ; but especially those that imperil the pastor. The mos...

In each of the last three years, at least six Chinese congregations have been in the top thirty churches in California in giving through the Cooperative Program.
Reflections on the SBC Omnibus 2012 Cooperative Program Findings

According to LifeWay’s most recent Cooperative Program survey, Southern Baptists are putting their CP treasure where their missional heart is.

The Southern Baptist Convention was created to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of Baptists “for the propagation of the Gospel.” 1

The Convention’s formal purpose is the “promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad.” 2

The Convention’s missional vision is to “present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.” 3

To help accomplish these worthy goals, the Convention adopted a program of cooperative giving we today call the Cooperative Program.

A COMPREHENSIVE VISION
The Cooperative Program is the means by which Southern Baptists work together to provide financial support for the missions and ministrie...

To speak a second language, you don’t need Rosetta Stone.

Everyone has an opportunity to think and speak in God’s language—Scripture, the foundational language of the universe.

Scripture carries God’s revelation and message to mankind, setting forth His forgiveness and grace among those who turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Then, through the Holy Spirit, Scripture has the power to extend deeply into our souls, into the parts of our earthly existence from which all language and human behavior arise. All other languages are but conduits for Scripture, the heart language of God.

Every word in the Bible, in one way or another, is part of the sustenance that God can supply for an adventurous yet tender faith that can be wondrously wholesome and fulfilling, stretching forward from this point in your life throughout eternity.

Consider, for starters, the following brief passages from Scripture. Or select some from your own reading of the Bible. Pick one and patiently begin to memorize it, ponder it,...

The 1% CP Challenge “is a succinct way to do something more—an understandable way to say, ‘Yeah, we can do that,’” Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said. “It is understandable, is easily acted upon, and can be done without shifting major sections of a church’s finances.”

According to LifeWay Research’s 2012 Cooperative Program Omnibus Survey, 7 percent of cooperating Southern Baptist churches reported they had accepted the 1% CP Challenge. An additional 8 percent of pastors indicated they plan to lead their churches to accept the 1% CP Challenge in the coming year. The survey was taken this past May.

“The Cooperative Program is not a reservoir that we hold; it’s money that we send through the CP to missions and ministries,” Page said. “It’s exciting to see new pastors, younger pastors, ethnic pastors, Anglo pastors, say, ‘You know, it’s time to put more emphasis on the Cooperative Program.’”

Following his election as Southern Bapti...

Historical Reflections on Local and Universal Impulses in Baptist Ecclesiology
When LifeWay Research released a study of Lord’s Supper practices in Southern Baptist churches, it created an immediate buzz among pastors, columnists, and denominational bloggers.
The following is a list of non-Anglos who have served as president of their respective state Baptist conventions.
A Strong Home Base; an Aggressive Global Vision

The International Mission Board and North American Mission Board are two strengths of Southern Baptists, according to Benny Wong, pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church Los Angeles. The church is one of the largest Chinese Baptist churches in the United States, with more than two thousand in attendance each Sunday morning.

“They [IMB and NAMB] reflect the heart of Southern Baptists for the Great Commission and I appreciate that very much,” Wong said. “This is the church’s mandate; this is the heart of Jesus. Maybe I’m too simple-minded, but if this was Jesus’ last statement before His ascension, why emphasize anything else?”

Founded through the work of the SBC’s Home Mission Board (now NAMB) in 1952, the church’s commitment to cooperative missions can be seen in the fact that it is on track to be, for the third year in a row, the fourth-largest giver in California to state, national, and global missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. Through its faithfu...

The 100th Anniversary of The Old Rugged Cross

Seen from the highway into Reed City, Michigan, an impressive twelve-foot cross erected on the grounds beckoned me to tour The Old Rugged Cross Museum and Historical Society. Inside I discovered an old upright piano that belonged to George Bennard and his wife Hannah. Nestled in its open case against the wall was his guitar. The now quiet clock sat on top of the piano.

As I played “The Old Rugged Cross” on that weathered Hinze piano, I recalled childhood memories of my own composer dad sitting at the baby grand, staff paper on the fallboard, pencil behind his ear, deciding which chord progression or rhythm would fit with the words he had jotted down on a bulletin or a scrap of paper. I imagined Bennard, strumming the chords on his guitar, composing “The Old Rugged Cross” like that.

NEVER BOAST EXCEPT IN THE CROSS
(Galatians 6:14a, NIV)
Reflecting on Galatians 6:14 to gain a fuller understanding of the cross, Bennard, a full-time evangelist, wrote, “I read and studied and prayed. . . . The Christ of th...

Energy Savings Passed Along through CP

What would your church do if it found a way to save thousands of dollars in annual energy costs?

That’s what happened to Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, when it upgraded light bulbs and thermostats to more energy-efficient models, lowering its gas and electric bills by five thousand dollars annually. And it used part of the savings to increase gifts to missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program, raising its contributions from 7 to 8.5 percent of undesignated receipts with plans for 10 percent within five years.

Pastor Mike O’Neal marvels at the potential Kingdom impact if every Southern Baptist church would examine its energy costs, make upgrades, and pass some of the savings along through CP.

“We’re just being better stewards,” O’Neal said of his congregation. “Why pay more to the power and light companies than you have to? Now we can devote those resources to Kingdom purposes.”

Hurstbourne’s journey toward savings began in 2009 when a local engineering firm proposed an e...

Month-Long Emphasis in January 2013 Helps Churches Prioritize Prayer

Southern Baptist leaders are hoping churches will start 2013 with an emphasis on prayer and the lost during the month-long SBC Call to Prayer beginning January 1.

The effort will help congregations focus on prayer in several key sets of relationships, seeking ways to engage those without Christ.

“The SBC Call to Prayer is a pivotal opportunity as churches cast a vision for ministry in 2013,” said SBC President Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. “This coming January we will have the chance to gather as a denomination and center our thoughts and prayers on the lost in our communities and around the world.”

Among the emphases of the SBC Call to Prayer are:

• My Family and Friends.
Select a friend or family member and pray that they would come to faith in Christ.

• My Nation.
Select a Send North America city and pray for the church planting efforts in that area (www.namb.net/cities).

• My World.
Sele...

The Power of Forgiveness

Chatting with a friend who was fretting over the stress of Christmas, I said, “At least we have those big family get-togethers to look forward to.” She told me that that’s what she was fretting about! She started popping Tums as she told me about her uncle.

Her Uncle Bob makes every family gathering a strenuous exercise. She rolled her eyes telling me of his bad jokes. She gritted her teeth relating how he laughs mercilessly while recounting every stupid thing she did growing up. She mentioned some pretty felonious thoughts about last year, like wanting to set fire to his barn. I reminded her no one wants a Christmas get-together that ends with a jail sentence!

We all tend to have an Uncle-Bob-type person in our lives who could use a remedial people skills class or two and who seems to be, shall we say, a few nuts over the fruitcake maximum. Maybe he’s bigger than life, storming into the room with noogies—with your name on them, even though you’re over thirty. Or worse, when you flip over...

January 2013
Call to Prayer (January 1–31)
January Bible Study (January 2–6)
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (January 20)

February 2013
“True Love Waits” Emphasis (February 1–28)
Racial Reconciliation Sunday (February 10)
Focus on WMU (February 11–17)
Children’s Ministry Day (February 16)

March 2013
Youth Week (March 3–9)
North America: Week of Prayer and Mission Study and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (March 3-10)
Substance Abuse Sunday (March 17)
Church Planting Emphasis Sunday (March 17)

...