News

Here you will find the very latest news from the Baptist Press (BP), NAMB (North American Mission Board) and IMB (International Mission Board). Each entry includes the title, source and date of the article and a brief summary.

You can also select a specific news source (i.e. Baptist Press) from the News drop-down menu to read only a specific news feed.

Click on the title to view the full article at the external website.

 

BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 3:36pm
FORT MYERS, Fla. (BP) -- Muchos de nosotros estamos familiarizados con ella y con frecuencia usamos la expresión: "Ya se comienza a sentir la Navidad". Después del Día de Acción de Gracias se comienzan a ver las decoraciones en las casas y los arbolitos de Navidad comienzan a cobrar vida.

En especial, un nuevo ambiente festivo se comienza a sentir. En la mayoría de las iglesias el primer domingo de diciembre se comienzan a cantar himnos de Navidad y los sermones, por lo general, se concentran en el tema del anuncio y nacimiento de nuestro Señor y Salvador Jesucristo.

En muchos comercios hoy día se vuelve a decir: Feliz Navidad y las bolsas en los mercados imprimen ese saludo. Este año, por primera vez estaré celebrando la Navidad en la ciudad de Fort Myers en Florida donde ahora vivimos. Esta mañana me sorprendió la noticia de que los alumnos de diferentes escuelas y grados escolares del Suroeste de Florida están cantando canciones de Navidad en el aeropuerto de Fort Myers para saludar a los viajeros que llegar y ayudarlos a captar el espíritu de la Navidad. Esta iniciativa se debe a la Autoridad Portuaria del Condado Lee y su programa musical "Sonidos de la Estación" (Sounds of the Season).
Esta es mi época favorita del año y desde muy temprana edad, hubo actividades en las cuales siempre he participado, entre otras, las cantatas de Navidad. En mi casa, desde muy pequeño, me enseñaron que esta es una temporada para dar. En realidad, lo que se celebra es el inmerecido regalo de Dios de Su Hijo Unigénito. ¿Qué mejor manera de celebrar ese invaluable regalo que dando?

Pero si somos honestos, cada uno de nosotros está esperando recibir un regalo. Dar regalos en Navidad es una práctica universal, en todas las culturas se aprecia la generosidad. Muchas veces, erróneamente, se asocia la generosidad con la opulencia. Algunas personas, en la misma medida que adquieren más riquezas se vuelven más mezquinas.

Recordemos la historia de la viuda pobre que narra Lucas 21:3-4. Esta historia se mal interpreta con mucha frecuencia y algunos dicen, no importa lo que se dé, es solo un asunto de actitud. Pero en este caso en especial, la viuda no dio lo que le sobraba sino por el contrario dio todo lo que tenía, que no era mucho, porque era muy pobre. No fue solo la actitud de dar, sino la de dar con generosidad, mucho más allá de lo que cualquiera pudiera pensar lo que llamó la atención de Jesús.

Luego de permanecer en la misma iglesia por más de trece años y de que esa iglesia celebra la Navidad de una manera espectacular, no solo con el Concierto de Navidad sino invitando a los miembros a donar provisiones para armar Cestas de Navidad que se reparten entre los necesitados de la Comunidad. Por ejemplo el año pasado, se repartieron 4,800 cestas valoradas, cada una en $50.00, honestamente el domingo pasado me sentía nostálgico y un poco deprimido, hasta que descubrí que en mi iglesia actual tienen un programa parecido. Se ofrece el Concierto de Navidad y se pide que ese día los asistentes traigan, cada uno, una contribución en alimentos para distribuirlos entre los necesitados en nuestra Comunidad. Pienso que esta es una linda manera de mostrarles a otros que ellos son importantes para nuestro Dios.

El mayor problema de hoy día es que algunas veces estamos tan ensimismados en nuestro "propio mundo" que olvidamos prestar atención al mundo que nos rodea. Hay mucha gente sufriendo y con necesidades que nosotros debemos y podemos aliviar. ¿Cómo hablarles del amor, sin amarlos? ¿Cómo ignorar sus sufrimientos desde nuestra abundancia?

En esta época maravillosa, extraordinaria, mágica, en la que celebramos el recibimiento del mayor regalo que jamás se hubiera hecho a pecadores que no lo merecíamos, te invito a reflexionar, una vez más en la historia que narra Lucas 21:1-4 y te invito a que este año seas generoso, dando a tu iglesia, para la obra de Reino, más allá de lo que normalmente das.
¡Feliz Navidad!
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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 3:25pm
Baptist journalist Walker Knight dies at 95

DECATUR, Ga. (BP) -- Walker Knight, a longtime Baptist journalist credited with advancing racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention, died Dec. 1. He was 95.

Editor of the Home Mission Board's Home Missions magazine from 1959-83, Knight gained a reputation for publishing engaging missions features and articles that challenged entrenched attitudes about race. He became the subject of controversy in January 1967, when a cover story on black pastor and civil rights activist William Holmes Borders provoked hundreds of readers to cancel their subscriptions.

But HMB chief executive Arthur Rutledge stood by Knight, and Home Missions went on to win numerous awards. The publication changed its name to Missions USA later in Knight's tenure.

"Home Mission magazine was perhaps the most effective communication piece that caused Southern Baptists to become more open and sensitive to racial reconciliation," former HMB staff member Emmanuel McCall, the first African American to serve on the staff at any SBC entity, wrote in his 2007 book "When All God's Children Get Together: A Memoir of Baptists and Race."

Following his retirement in 1983, Knight helped establish the moderate Baptist publication SBC Today amid the SBC's budding Conservative Resurgence. He also authored or contributed to more than 10 books.

Prior to his tenure at the HMB (precursor to the SBC's North American Mission Board), Knight was associate editor of the Baptist General Convention of Texas' Baptist Standard newsjournal from 1950-59. In that period, the Baptist Standard's circulation grew to 355,000 -- more than half the circulation of all today's Baptist state papers combined. Previously, Knight held secular journalism posts in Kentucky and Texas and pastored First Baptist Church in Dale, Texas.

He held a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and an honorary doctorate from Mercer University.

Knight was preceded in death by his wife Nell and is survived by four children and four grandchildren. Funeral services are scheduled for Dec. 14 at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., where Knight was a member.

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Corey Abney named pastor at Bell Shoals

BRANDON, Fla. (BP) -- Corey Abney has accepted the call to pastor Bell Shoals Baptist Church, an 8,000-member congregation with five campuses in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

The 44-year-old Abney is currently lead pastor of Florence Baptist Church in northern Kentucky, where he has served since 2012.

"I am eager to start serving at Bell Shoals," Corey said following the church's unanimous affirming of his call on November 24. "This is a church with a rich history in West Central Florida, and I know that God wants to guide our church toward even better days in the future."

Florence Baptist, located less than 15 miles outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, has seen its worship attendance grow by a third under Abney's leadership. It also started two church plants and established multiple partnerships in northern Kentucky and greater Cincinnati during Abney's tenure. He also led the church to start a second campus as part of a revitalization effort.

Abney has a doctorate in Preaching, Old Testament and New Testament from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Abney and his wife Christina have four children.

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Ezell's 'Quick Takes' podcast helps pastors find balance
By Brandon Elrod

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Pastoring a church can take its toll. The personal and spiritual nature of the vocation requires pastors to deal with deep stresses that other jobs often do not entail.

Through a recently launched podcast, "Quick Takes with Kevin," North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell aims to equip and encourage pastors. Ezell sits down with experienced pastors to have them share insights they have gained throughout their years of ministry.

"I wanted to call it 'Cracker Barrel with Kevin' because, to me, that's one of the easiest places to have a conversation about anything, but it's too hard to get permission to use the restaurant's name," said Ezell. "I'm trying to give pastors the feeling of sitting across the table from some fellow pastors and learning from their successes and struggles."

New episodes release every Wednesday. Currently, the conversations stem from various chapters in a book called Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul by Lance Witt. The focus of the podcast is to encourage and equip pastors as they balance the demands of life, leadership and ministry.

"I'm not claiming to have a lot of wisdom or all the answers," Ezell said, "but I do have some pretty smart friends, so each episode features pastors who are living out these topics and learning from them. It has led to a lot of great discussion so far."

In the first episode, SBC Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd shares about the day he decided to stop allowing his calendar to control him, protected time with his family and dedicated his mornings to being with the Lord.

Chuck Herring, pastor of Collierville (Tenn.) First Baptist Church, tells about a near-death experience that solidified what was truly important to him, and Thom Rainer, past president of LifeWay Christian Resources, discusses how to stop being a people pleaser.

"Pastors are NAMB's number one customer and we want to serve them well. One thing I know for sure is many of them are hurting and struggling," Ezell said. "Too many throw in the towel each year and give up pastoring for good. I hope we can help encourage them and help them figure out ways to return to a healthy balance."

The podcast is available both in audio and video formats through Apple Podcasts and on YouTube. It can also be found at namb.net/resources by clicking the podcasts link.
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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 3:16pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Bill Lee's decision to run for governor of Tennessee and his work in that office cannot be explained without understanding the impact of his faith, the state's highest office-holder told Christian leaders Dec. 3 at a Southern Baptist-sponsored event in Nashville.

"[T]he way that faith plays out most in my life is that I believe that we are called to serve people," said Lee, who was elected governor in 2018. "The Lord calls us to serve the poor, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to use our lives to impact other people's lives for good.

"[T]he whole reason that I ran for governor is to serve people."

The faith-motivated service he offered as a private citizen has been reflected in his initiatives since taking office, Lee told Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Moore interviewed Lee before an audience of pastors, leaders and other Christians from Middle Tennessee during the latest ERLC Leadership Luncheon at the SBC Building.

He mentored men coming out of prison, and that is why his administration will have a policy on criminal justice reform that includes such elements as re-entry and sentencing changes, Lee said. His mentorship of an at-risk young man in the inner city was the impetus for proposed legislation that would establish education savings accounts to help low-income students in the state's underachieving school districts, the governor said.

Lee grew up in a godly family and attended church all of his life, but he became a Christian as a 19-year-old in college, he told Moore. "My life didn't change much externally," he said, but it "started a process of transformation for me."

Carol Ann, his late wife, was more mature in her faith when they met and was "an inspiration to me" spiritually, Lee said. They walked through suffering together early in their 16-year marriage, with five pregnancies "that didn't work out," including the death of a child at birth, before four children were born, he said.

She died in a horseback riding accident in 2000.

"That was [a] life-altering, sort of cataclysmic event in my life that forever changed the whole trajectory of my life," Lee told the audience.

For multiple years as a family, he said, "[I]t was a journey that included wonder and joy and happiness and a rich, full life, but it was interspersed with a lot of pain and tragedy and questions. But I will say, that never ends, I don't think, for any of us. There's different times in life when it's more severe than others, when it ebbs and flows.

"It is the richness of a bittersweet journey. I've often said bittersweet is better than sweet. It has a more interesting flavor, and it's a lot richer and deeper."

Citing Jesus' declaration in John 10:10 that He came that His followers would have life in abundance or in fullness, Lee said, "I used to think a full life meant that you would be happy and peaceful and joyful, but I've really realized that fullness is happiness in the midst of struggle and joy in the midst of pain and peace in the midst of turmoil and that in Him, because of that anchor, you can have that in the midst of whatever life brings."

Lee and his wife Maria were married in 2008, and she is a spiritual inspiration to him, he said.

When he considered running for governor as a Republican after a successful business career, people asked if he were certain he wanted to enter politics because of its rough-and-tumble nature, Lee told Moore.

He would think, Lee recalled, "Look, I know what a bad day is, and that's not going to be a bad day. A bad day on the campaign trail is not a bad day.

"I used to say, 'When you've lost the most important thing on earth, then earth doesn't have nearly the meaning to you that it used to have.' And it doesn't have the hold on you either. And it doesn't have the attractiveness that it used to either, even though I love my life ... and I love the years that I have to do the things I'm doing. The things that happen here are not nearly as meaningful temporally as they used to be. I think it makes it a lot easier to put things in perspective."

Lee also has found that the approval of people has lost its grip on him.

"When you walk through the most difficult of circumstances, you pretty quickly figure out what matters and what doesn't," he said. "In a moment like that you [couldn't] care less about what anyone thinks about you ever again."

Moore recalled a 2018 meeting he attended in which Lee spoke favorably of other candidates running for governor.

"I think it's important because I think that in this day of divisiveness our country needs leadership to lead in how it is that we treat one another," Lee said.

Generally, people "like to see their value system reflected in the people that are in leadership," he said. "I genuinely think people in general want to get along with their neighbor; they want to serve their neighbor; they want to agree on the things they agree on, and when they disagree on things, they do it in a way that's civil and respectful of one another."

Lee said criminal justice reform matters for many reasons. If it is done correctly, the crime rate will be lowered and ex-prisoners will become productive citizens.

"My sense is we incarcerate too many of the wrong people for the wrong reasons," he told the audience. He believes there are ways for non-violent offenders to pay penalties in different ways and not fill jails or prisons and become violent offenders. "[T]hat allows them to be held responsible for their crime but to do it in ways that allow them to be rehabilitated and be productive."

After the interview with Lee, the ERLC hosted a panel discussion on criminal justice reform.

When asked how the audience could pray for him, Lee asked for prayers for his family and for God's favor on the state.

Audio of the interview is available at Moore's "Signposts" podcast site, here.

The ERLC Leadership Luncheon is held three or four times a year for a discussion of ethical and cultural issues. Sometimes the format is a question-and-answer session with Moore. At other times, the lunch features interviews with special guests or presentations on relevant topics.
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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 3:13pm
TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- How significant is the Lottie Moon offering to an IMB missionary? Kentucky native and IMB missionary to Zimbabwe Nick Moore explains it well.

"It's everything -- from the car we drive, to the house we live in, to the salary we make, our insurance," said Moore, who along with his wife Kyndra and their seven children returned to Kentucky in June and will return to Zimbabwe in January. "We've had at least three sets of stitches, a couple of broken arms, a concussion -- numerous trips to the hospitals.

"We've had to do emergency food runs. The economy has gotten to the point where it's actually cheaper for us to go to South Africa or Botswana to get our groceries and other supplies. There's a huge fuel shortage in Zimbabwe, so we have to constantly be creative as to how we acquire fuel."

That's on the personal side. Lottie Moon giving is crucial from the ministry standpoint as well.

"We're in a development project right now," Moore said. "But we are in the very early stages.... We're having to put a lot into the project and a lot into the ministry, praying that one day it will become self-sufficient."

Safety net

To grasp the ministry situation there, it's necessary to understand the economic environment.

The downward spiral that started in the early 2000s hit a fever pitch around 2008 when the Zimbabwe dollar inflation "went through the roof," Moore noted.

"It was dire -- almost like the depression. You had people bringing in wheelbarrow loads of money to buy a loaf of bread. Or you'd order a meal and you paid before you ate it because if you waited until after that, the price would have gone up. That's how bad it had gotten."

After 10 years of attempting to use U.S. currency, that supply has dried up as well, and Zimbabwe is back to using its own currency with inflation rising again.

For example, two liters of oil now costs more than 40 U.S. dollars. Gasoline is over $15 a gallon. And as inflation goes up, people's salaries are diminishing. "A typical worker is still getting paid about 150 Zimbabwe dollars a month, but the inflation rate is so high, so they're making the equivalent of about 15 U.S. dollars a month, which isn't even enough to buy the liter of gas," Moore said. "That's what they're trying to survive [on]."

So the obvious question looms: How do you minister in that environment?

Two words from Moore: Lottie Moon!

"That's what I tell people when we go to our churches -- that we don't feel the desperation that our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters feel because we have a huge safety net. And that is Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program. We go with the assurance that our bills are going to be paid and we're going to have money that we need."

A Bible and a plow

As missionaries engage people who have desperate needs, they view it from the standpoint of development. Ironically, development is hindered by good intentions -- an overabundance of relief aid. "Even the African economists are saying that it's destroying our continent because when you bring in a bunch of free stuff and give it out, there's no incentive for the local economy to thrive."

Moore explains, "There's a place in our town where Goodwill will just dump clothes and you can get a shirt for 50 cents and a pair of shoes for a couple of dollars. How is a local shirt manufacturer going to compete with that? How's the local shoe manufacturer going to compete with that? They can't. Many are saying aid is actually hurting more than it's helping.

"What we're trying to do is help build the local economy through agricultural development. Our main job is at the Baptist seminary, so we are training pastors. But we recognize that the pastors we train are not going to be able to make a living as pastors. They're going to have to have some other skill set to provide for their families once they get out into the world. While we're building this agricultural development, we're also training the pastors in those skills -- they're leaving with a Bible in one hand and a plow in the other."

Vision for Zimbabwe

Statistics support the Moore family's commitment to Zimbabwe.

"The vision that took us there was because of the need for qualified and trained leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa," Moore said.

"Statistics show that by 2050, almost 40 percent of the world's Christians will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. That's the way the population and the shift of evangelicalism is going. So the question is: what kind of evangelicalism, what kind of Christianity is that going to be? At the moment it's largely a charismatic, neo-Pentecostal, faith healing, prosperity gospel brand of Christianity. We recognize that. The only way to really shape the future of the church is to begin shaping the future leaders so that they are equipped to rightly handle the Word of truth."

Seminary growth

The Baptist Theological Seminary in Zimbabwe was in severe decline in the mid-1990s.

"Infrastructures were collapsing and leadership was not prepared for the challenges they were facing," Moore said. "There was a debt of almost $100,000 and the student body had dwindled to almost nothing."

Moore has been in Zimbabwe since 2015, and the seminary is on a solid recovery path.

"We're now back up to about 60 students," he said. "We've brought on several faculty and the administration is on a more solid footing. That's only been possible through these development projects because if it was up to the local economy to support a school like this, that wouldn't be happening."

Family circle

The adjustment to life in Zimbabwe has gone well for the Moore family.

"All of [the children] at different points so far have expressed how they miss Zimbabwe and want to go back to Zimbabwe," Moore said. "That tells us that it's kind of become a home for them. It's been difficult. We've had our share of illness and injuries, and I think the kids have missed being with their friends and family here. But they do sense the purpose for why we are there. And they get to see and be part of things that are really a privilege to be involved in these rural African ministries and be amongst the huts and the villages and to learn life lessons about what really matters and being grateful."

The Moores' home church, Redemption Hill Baptist Church in Taylorsville, Ky., also has sent another family to serve in Zimbabwe and has sent a couple to South Africa as well. Redemption Hill pastor Justin Compton was unavailable to comment on his church's heavy mission involvement in Africa. He was in Zimbabwe on a mission trip at the time of this writing.
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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 2:14pm
AUSTIN, Texas (BP) -- The most influential Southern Baptist woman in ministry gave her life in service to Christ. Lottie Moon was an affluent, highly-educated linguist from Virginia whose testimony reads like something from a novel. But in her case, the facts were far greater than fiction.

While Lottie Moon demonstrated little to no interest in Christianity during her early years, a revival sermon on her college campus, preached by Southern Baptist legend John Broadus (one of the founders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), changed her life.

When she was still a college student, Moon met Crawford Toy, a brilliant young Baptist Hebrew teacher, and the two eventually planned to get married. Toy, however, had been influenced by Darwinism, and his theology grew more heavily informed by German liberalism, embroiling him in controversy while he taught at Southern Seminary. Eventually Professor Toy left Southern Baptist life, became a Unitarian, and taught at Harvard. Lottie Moon's convictions about the trustworthiness of the Bible and her commitment to Christ wouldn't allow her to go through with the wedding plans. She never married. Her heart, instead, was set on missions.

In spite of her marital status, in an unusual move, especially for the late 19th century, the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board commissioned Moon to go to China as a missionary. She would spend the rest of her life in ministry there.

Eventually, missionary funding and personnel support became slow in coming. Lottie Moon gave her last dollars and most of her food to the hungry Chinese people in her care, all the while pleading with the mission board and stateside churches for more missionaries and more support.

Lottie Moon was exhausted and starving, but she refused to go home. Finally, unable to care for herself, others put her aboard a ship headed for the States. She weighed 50 pounds. Two weeks after leaving China, while docked in a port in Japan, Lottie Moon died. It was Christmas Eve 1912. She had been in China for nearly four decades.

During her selfless life, Lottie Moon's tireless efforts on the field and persistent letter-writing to the States appealing for more missionaries and more funding stirred greater interest in missions. The circumstances and timing of her death only fueled the missionary zeal of Baptist women eager to get the Gospel to the world. As a result, over more than a century the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has funneled $4.5 billion to world missions. Half of the International Mission Board's budget for missions comes from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and every penny given goes directly to missions.

I urge our Southern Baptist churches to tell her story and give generously this year. In addition, we preachers should call out the next generation of missionaries to answer the call to missions. The men and women with the call to go will come from our churches. Some of them are now teenage boys and girls or younger, sitting in our services every Sunday.

The sacrificial life of Lottie Moon is a biography worth repeating and a ministry worth emulating. As Southern Baptists, our churches can and should lead by example in giving generously and sacrificially to international missions. This year let's send a strong signal of support that the Southern Baptist Convention wants to be a big part of sending the Gospel, and more missionaries, to the nations.
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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 2:11pm
BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (BP) -- "The Islands," from filmmaker Timothy Chey ("Freedom," "The Genius Club") and RiverRain Productions, is now playing in selected theaters and is expected to have a wider release later this month. This highly anticipated adventure film is based on the true story of Hawaii's High Chieftess Kapiolani's heroic mission to justify her Christian convictions. The movie is a salute to Hawaii's beauty and this island leader's moral courage.

Hawaiians once offered human sacrifices to volcanoes in order to appease the "gods." But after a Boston Baptist missionary won Kapiolani to Christ in 1821, she embraced her newfound faith and saw beyond these false practices. To prove her devotion and set an example for her people, the chieftess descended into the active Kilauea volcano after reciting a prayer to the Creator instead of the traditional Hawaiian petition to the god of volcanoes. She emerged unscathed and vowed that religion would be a personal decision, with her choice being Christianity.

"The Islands" features Oscar-award winner Mira Sorvino, as well as John Savage and native Hawaiian actress Teuira Shanti Napa as Kapiolani. A stunning production, it highlights Kapiolani's remarkable faith and how it affected an entire nation.

"The Islands" is rated PG-13 for mature subject matter and violence, which may not be suitable for younger children.

Returning favorites

"The Star," which premiered in theaters in 2017, returns to local cinemas for a limited engagement this Dec. 7-8. Sony Pictures' animated retelling of the birth of Jesus is aimed at children and concerns a brave little donkey and his barnyard buddies as they become accidental heroes on Christmas Day.

I wasn't thrilled with the idea of animated animals taking the spotlight off the infant who would change the course of man's destiny. But after seeing the screener, I gave way to another view of this Disney-esque treatment of a holy event. The script makes the advent understandable to its main demographic: little ones.

Gratefully, while utilizing this approach, the filmmakers avoid using Jesus, Mary or Joseph as the brunt of jokes. Well, OK, Joseph, like most sit-com husbands, is a bit of a bumbler. But it is clear that he is a good man. Here, the animals represent mankind and it is they who are bewildered until the true meaning of life is born.

I believe that as children enjoy the comic antics of Bo the Donkey and his eccentric stable of friends, they may open up to the picture's sincere and biblical conclusion. What's more, I suspect the 86-minute film will lead to a positive family discussion on the drive home. (PG)

And new on DVD: "Overcomer."

This past August, Christian writers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, founders of Sherwood Pictures, gave moviegoers "Overcomer," an inspiring mix of humor and drama with spiritual insights. Now on Digital, the well-received film will be released on DVD and Blu-ray December 17th.

The story involves high school basketball coach John Harrison (Alex Kendrick) losing his job when the town's largest manufacturing plant closes and several of his team's families move away. At a crossroads, he is offered the position of girls' track coach. Reluctantly accepting the post, he's quickly introduced to a new obstacle: only one girl turns out for tryouts. And she has asthma! After a rocky start, John coaches the aspiring cross-country athlete (Aryn Wright-Thompson) to success on and off the track, while learning some lessons himself.

Heartfelt and believable, this sports drama offers hope that God does intervene and blesses those with contrite hearts.
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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 10:30am
MARIETTA, Ga. (BP) -- BP correspondent Maina Mwaura sat down with Bryant Wright and Clay Smith of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., to discuss pastoral succession, reaching the next generation and how the church has honored Wright for his 37 years of pastoral leadership.

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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 10:21am
NASHVILLE (BP) -- I always associate "O Come all ye Faithful" with going carol singing in Ireland at Christmas when I was a child; it makes this carol incredibly special for me and we always finish our Christmas concerts with it.

The carol, originally known as 'Adeste Fidelis', was most likely written by John Francis Wade, a Catholic artist. It remained a Latin masterpiece for 100 years before being translated into English by Frederick Oakley. For congregational and a capella purposes, this carol sings beautifully.

It's a simple carol that tells the story of the Christ child and encourages us to join with the angels in celebrating and declaring the birth of our Savior:

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation

Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!


It's an invitation to join in with the praise and worship of heaven -- to remember that Jesus gave up his heavenly home to become flesh for us.

It takes us to the fields of Bethlehem, and reminds us that Jesus' birth was proclaimed "by a great company of the heavenly host ... praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'" (Luke 2:13).

The carol is full of snappy theological phrases like:

Word of the Father

now in flesh appearing


Everybody knows this phrase; it's such a memorable part of Christmas carol singing tradition. And yet, each Christmas, this phrase can mean something different to me and each person who sings it.

For me, this hymn has one of the best choruses ever written. The invitation to all is just to 'come and adore ...' The repetition of this one line builds emphasis and a persuasion to forget what is holding us back, to let go of all else that might be occupying our minds, and to just 'come.' To take a step from one place to another, whether physically or spiritually, where we can simply 'adore Christ the Lord.'

About Keith & Kristyn Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers whose compositions are sung the world over. For more information on Getty Music and the Sing! initiative, visit www.gettymusic.com.

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BP News Friday, December 6, 2019 - 10:11am
EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 1-8, focusing on Revelation 7:9 ("I saw a great multitude from every nation and all tribes….") The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org/lmco, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $165 million.

SOFIA, Bulgaria (BP) -- George remembers the secret police raiding his house twice when he was young. He went to secret Christian meetings, and his family tucked their Bibles away so they wouldn't be found. "We were a persecuted Christian family," he said.

But despite his family's gritty faith, George's heart hadn't experienced real change. Christianity was a cause to him, not a relationship. It wasn't until after the fall of communism when IMB missionary Bill Wardlaw came and preached at George's church that he heard the Gospel differently.

"Before I thought it was just the right thing to do, and now it seemed like it was a more personal thing to do," George said.

As he listened to Bill's sermons, he would go back and talk about them with his grandmother. Over time, God began to change his heart. Today at 39 years old, he's pastor of the oldest Baptist church in Bulgaria, and he's seeing God work in the lives of people all around him.

But it's a slow go. Evangelism there is difficult -- on the heels of communism, much of the country is atheist.

IMB missionary Brian Davis says Bulgarians are openly disinterested in religion. The spiritual climate is dark, and the people are desperate for hope, but they're not looking to find it in the church.

"It's sad to see," he said. "We're praying for the Spirit to work and that God would lead us to the people who are interested."

One of those is a man who calls himself an intellectual and has welcomed Brian into his home to study the Book of Romans with him. Another is Donka, an 85-year-old widow who comes into the Davises' home every week for Bible study. She's a self-proclaimed atheist, but Brian's wife, Mandy, says she hopes that her heart is slowly changing.

"She has not yet professed faith, but she tells everyone she meets about us and how the world would be better 'if everyone believed and lived like Brian and Mandy.' We keep turning her focus from our good works to the 'why' behind our good works," Mandy said.

George's church is trying the same approach, sharing the Gospel in the context of relationships. Church members are running medical clinics and soup kitchens and helping at orphanages with the goal of showing the community a love that looks different from anything it has ever known.

"Everything we do has only one purpose -- to make His name known to others," George said. "That's what our main thing is -- to give the hope of God."

-- PRAY FOR God to draw people across Bulgaria to see their need for the hope Jesus offers.

-- The Davises to be able to build relationships with people who are open to studying the Bible and exploring faith.

-- Bulgarian believers like George to show the love of Christ to the community in a way that cultivates interest in Jesus.
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BP News Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 2:19pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Modern hymn writer Keith Getty has written a series of essays, each focusing on a Christmas hymn or carol. This is the third of an 11-part series in Baptist Press.

Charles Wesley's vision for "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was, ironically, for it to be a somber carol. Yet the wonderfully triumphant melody written by Felix Mendelssohn, a German-Jewish composer, turns it into a celebration.

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled


In this Christmas carol, the lyrics don't just focus on the birth of Jesus, but weave in the foundational purpose behind the incarnation -- to reconcile people to God and bring them back into relationship with Him.

George Whitfield may have done an edit to this carol later on but in essence it is Wesley's brilliant lyrics that impart such timeless truths so powerfully. Wesley displays such skill in his lyric writing and achieves something that not many modern worship songs achieve. Everything sings off the tongue so perfectly. The way he constructs each line and his very exacting choice of words appeal to all the senses.

The other thing that Wesley does brilliantly -- and this is something that modern hymn writer Stuart Townend does brilliantly too -- is knowing when to hit his home run. The last verses are always so climactic and take the singer to a new level of adoration and wonder.

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! the herald angels sing

Glory to the new-born King!


It's amazing to think how many millions of people over the last 280 years have sung the Gospel and understood it on some level thanks to the brilliant artistry of Charles Wesley.

It's a hymn that, in just three verses, presents the Gospel succinctly yet very effectively. First, we exult at Christ's birth and join with the angels as they worship the Christ child, the one through whom God is reconciling all people to Himself.

Then we are reminded of Jesus' heavenly glory and His divinity. The precious incarnation -- the one who 'laid His glory by' in order to rescue and redeem.

Christ by highest Heav'n adored

Christ the everlasting Lord


And finally, to His resurrection.

Light and life to all He brings

Ris'n with healing in His wings


And we are drawn to focusing our minds on what His birth, death and resurrection have achieved -- new birth, new life and an eternal destination that is available to all.

The carol really does comprise a simple and engaging presentation of the Gospel that makes it such a crucial part of our witness and declaration of God's plan of salvation at Christmastime. It's an invitation to anyone who will accept it to see beyond the baby in a manger and accept the new life and hope that, through Jesus, we can experience every day.

About Keith & Kristyn Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers whose compositions are sung the world over. For more information on Getty Music and the Sing! initiative, visit www.gettymusic.com.


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BP News Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 2:15pm
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signaled Thursday (Dec. 5) the Democrat-controlled chamber is committed to holding a vote soon to impeach President Trump.

Pelosi announced she is asking the chairmen of House of Representatives committees investigating the president to draft articles of impeachment. An impeachment vote reportedly could occur before Christmas.

"The facts are uncontested," she told reporters. "The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and [a] crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival."

Some Democrats have called for the impeachment of Trump for a variety of reasons since he took office in 2017, but the focus of the impeachment inquiry approved by the House in a nearly party-line vote Oct. 31 is on a late July phone call between Trump and new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In the call, Trump appeared to encourage Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate to face the president next November, and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. In addition, Trump delayed the transfer of nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine before the call.

In a Dec. 5 tweet, Trump said the Democrats "have no impeachment case and are demeaning our Country.... Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business."

Pelosi's announcement came a day after Democratic representatives affirmed her intention during a closed-door meeting. When she asked, "Are you ready?" the Democrats shouted their support, The Washington Post reported.

Also on Dec. 4, three lawyers called by Democrats told the House Judiciary Committee the president had committed impeachable offenses, which the U.S. Constitution defines as "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Based on the testimony and evidence before the House, Trump "has committed impeachable 'high crimes and misdemeanors' by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency," Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman said. Trump "openly abused his office by seeking a personal advantage in order to get himself re-elected," he testified.

Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law and Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School agreed.

Jonathan Turley -- a George Washington University Law School professor called by Republicans -- told the committee, however, there was "not compelling evidence of the commission of a crime" and warned against a "slipshod impeachment."

"I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger," he said. "I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachment but would create a dangerous standard for future impeachment."

After the lawyers' testimonies, Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said he had listened to "consistent, clear and compelling evidence that the president has abused his power, attempted to undermine the constitutional role of Congress, and corrupted our elections."

Rep. Doug Collins, the lead Republican on the committee, decried the Democrats' failure to have witnesses of fact and apparent decision to depend on the work of other committees.

"What a disgrace to this committee -- to have the committee of impeachment simply take from other entities and rubber stamp it," said Collins, a Southern Baptist from Georgia.

Pelosi announced Sept. 24 she was instructing six committees to investigate the president for possible impeachment. No action by the full chamber was taken until the Oct. 31 roll call, when the House voted 232-196 for a resolution instructing committees to continue their investigations into whether evidence exists to impeach Trump and establishing rules for the process. No Republican members voted for the resolution, while only two Democrats voted against it.

On Dec. 3, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence approved in a party-line vote a 300-page report that said Trump abused his office for political gain and obstructed the investigation.

If the Judiciary Committee approves articles of impeachment, the entire House would hold a vote. Only a majority would be required to impeach the president. If impeachment takes place, the Senate would hold a trial, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump from office.

Impeachment inquiries have been held for three previous presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868; Richard Nixon in 1974; and Bill Clinton in 1998. Johnson and Clinton were impeached, but the Senate failed to convict either president. Johnson survived by only a vote. Nixon resigned before the Judiciary Committee sent articles of impeachment to the House.
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BP News Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 1:41pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week's Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies For Life curriculum.

Bible Passage: Psalm 19:1-10

Discussion Questions:
-- What part of nature generates a sense of awe in you and points you to God?
-- How have you found the Bible to be trustworthy?
-- What do you consider the strongest evidence for the existence of God?

Food for Thought:

Who first taught you about God? Many of us learned about God at home; our families talked openly about God. For others, we had a friend who pointed us to Christ. But even those who haven't had such experiences still can have an awareness of and knowledge of God. The Book of Psalms shows us the ways God has revealed Himself to us.

In Psalm 19, the author King David worshiped God for revealing His existence in the created, observable world. "The heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse proclaims the work of His hands" (v. 1). God's declaration is not periodic or occasional; it continues nonstop. Speaking of God's creation David said, "Day after day they pour out speech" (v. 2). It's like coming late to a worship service. You enter the room and hear worship already in progress. David continually saw the worship of God in the world around him.

In verses 7-9, the psalmist zeroed in on the works of God as seen in His truth, justice, instruction and redemption. We know of these things because He has revealed them through Scripture, the divinely inspired Word of God. And that Word is trustworthy! The psalmist's statement, "all His instructions are trustworthy" (v. 7), is a confession of trust and respect for God's Word and its application to life.

Numerous books tout wisdom, yet the Bible says wisdom begins with "the fear of the LORD" (Psalm 111:10). And this God-fearing wisdom shows us that right living is defined by a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That relationship changes everything. We not only can know God exists, but we can know God, walk with Him and live our lives grounded in His wisdom.

Bible Studies for Life
Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God's Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found on the internet at www.biblestudiesforlife.com.

Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool or ordered at LifeWay Christian Stores.
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BP News Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 1:30pm
BOGOTÁ, Columbia (BP) -- The day they heard Carlos' story, Paul and Robin Tinley had just dropped off the last little bit of winter clothing they had collected. They had been passing clothes out for months, and this was the first time they had run out.

It's not hard to see why they did. The flow of human need just hasn't stopped.

For months, the Tinleys have been watching people spill out of Venezuela and into Colombia, the country where they serve as IMB missionaries. About 5,000 a day -- more than 3 million total -- walk away from Venezuela's economic meltdown in hopes that they can escape hunger, crime, unemployment and lack of medical care.

Many of those cross over into Colombia. Most of them have nothing but the shirt on their back, and even the clothes they do have aren't enough for Colombia's colder climate.

That was Carlos' reality. He made it on foot into Colombia and headed for the capital. After 10 days of walking in the cold rain, he made it to the toughest point in the journey --the top of a 10,000-foot mountain pass. Temperatures plummet there at night.

On top of that, he was barefoot -- his shoes had worn out along the way. So when he made it to the mountaintop way station where Paul and Robin regularly drop off winter clothes, he was thrilled with what he found -- the offer of hope and a new pair of shoes.

That's the story of many Venezuelans who make it to the way station -- they're desperate for help and hope. The retired missionary stationed there round the clock shares the Gospel more than 60 times a day as people pass by.

In the midst of all the need, there's unprecedented spiritual opportunity.

"Venezuelans are more open now than they have ever been in their history, but they are open to anything -- good or bad," Robin said. "This is a historic moment where Colombian believers urgently need to share the Gospel."

Though the Tinleys are stretched thin, they serve tirelessly alongside Colombian churches to provide things like food and childcare. They're helping displaced Venezuelans start microbusinesses like bakeries and knitting shops so they can support their families. And they're meeting often with Venezuelan groups for trauma counseling and Bible study.

The need is nonstop, Paul said. It can be hard for churches to keep going as the area becomes more and more saturated with need, but he challenges churches to leverage their position for the sake of the Kingdom.

"I tell them often, 'The mission field is walking in front of your churches, in front of your homes,'" he said. "It's a sensitive time, and we are starting to see a movement among the churches."

-- PRAY FOR Paul and Robin to have energy to keep serving Venezuelan immigrants as they continue to pour into Colombia.

-- PRAY FOR Colombian believers to share the Gospel with urgency and plant new churches among Venezuelans. Read more...

BP News Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 11:26am
PLYMOUTH, Mich. (BP) -- The Baptist State Convention of Michigan heard Executive Director Tim Patterson's vision for 500 churches by 2025, and toured the convention's new office facilities at the BSCM leadership conference and annual meeting. Messengers also heard guest speakers from both inside and outside the state.

One hundred seventy messengers represented 55 of the convention's more than 300 churches, and 33 guests brought the total attendance to 203 at Mile City Church in Plymouth, Mich., Nov. 8. The meeting's theme was "Re-envision God's Desire."

The 2020 budget of $2,284,138 -- a roughly 20 percent decrease from the current year -- anticipates $1,200,000 in Cooperative Program giving from churches.

The Convention will forward 27.5 percent of CP receipts to Southern Baptist Convention national and international causes, the same percentage forwarded in 2019.

Speakers at the leadership conference were church planter Roland Caldwell Jr. from The House Church in Detroit; Barry McCarty, professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ken Pierpont, lead pastor at Bethel Church in Jackson, Mich.; and Felix Cabrera, director of SEND Puerto Rico and executive director of Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico.

During the annual meeting, Patterson challenged messengers to pursue true vision through the ability to see, the faith to see, the courage to do, and the willingness to change. Other presentations included panel discussions about state ministries and evangelism grants. Jerome Taylor, chairman of the Executive Board's Strengthening Team, and Billy Walker, chairman of the Sending Team, called out several of the events from the last year and asked those who had benefited from the events to stand, giving a visual presentation of all the strengthening and inspiring training events offered to Michigan pastors and churches.

Scott Blanchard, lead pastor at Lakepointe Church in Shelby Township, Mich., was re-elected president. Also re-elected were first vice president Roy Henry, lead pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Battle Creek, Mich.; second vice president, Ed Emmerling, lead pastor at Westside Baptist Church in Flushing, Mich.; and assistant recording secretary, Roland Caldwell, lead pastor at Burnette Baptist Church in Detroit, Mich. Jerome Taylor, lead pastor at Eastgate Baptist Church in Burton, Mich., was newly elected as recording secretary.

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 6 at a location to be determined.

Read more...

BP News Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 11:23am
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP) -- Nearly half of New Mexico's population is Hispanic, the highest share in the United States, yet there are only 57 Hispanic Baptist churches ministering to fewer than 3,000 Hispanics on any given Sunday across the state. One Southern Baptist is set on changing that.

"New Mexico is a mission field," says Ricardo Rivera, the state Hispanic strategist for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. "Our biggest challenge is finding church planters to reach this people group."

The Hispanic population of New Mexico is as diverse as it is large. In the northern part of the state most of the Hispanics are of Spanish descent, have been in the area for many generations and speak primarily English. In the southern part of the state, most of the Hispanic population is made up of immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America who speak mostly Spanish. Finally, to the east there are many Hispanics working in the dairy farms that line that part of the state.

First Baptist Church in Portales is currently the only church in New Mexico working to reach the dairy farm workers.

"The ministry to the dairy farm workers started through a deacon of FBC Portales who owns one of the farms and wanted to reach the Hispanics working there. Forty people have been saved as a result of that ministry," noted Rivera.

Another strategy churches are using to reach Hispanics is evangelistic events which Rivera says are essentially revival style services. The Hispanic churches are encouraged to host one of these events annually. The events include block parties and door-to-door evangelism.

Thirty churches welcomed about 900 lost people to their Easter revivals, said Rivera. More than 100 were saved and 12 have been baptized. Next year churches will work on hosting two revivals; one in the spring and another in the fall.

Much of the outreach so far has focused on first-generation Hispanics.

"We have many second- and third-generation Latinos who communicate in English but are culturally Hispanic," said Rivera. "We are not currently serving that group effectively."

"We need young, bilingual church planters who are culturally Hispanic to come and work with this people group in New Mexico."

While it is a challenging place to do ministry due to the strong Roman Catholic background, "people are open to hearing the Gospel."

Echoing Matthew 9, Rivera stated the resources are available, but the workers are few.
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