News from the Baptist Press

Formed in 1946 by the Southern Baptist Convention, and supported with Cooperative Program funds, Baptist Press (BP) is a daily (M-F) international news wire service. Operating from a central bureau in Nashville, Tenn., BP works with four partnering bureaus (Richmond, Va.; Atlanta, Ga.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Washington, D.C.), as well as with a large network of contributing writers, photographers and editorial providers, to produce BP News.

Click on the title to view the full article at the Baptist Press website.

 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 5:38pm
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Bryan Gill said there was something "strangely special" about sharing the Lord's Supper in his home, but in community with thousands of other believers from Birmingham's Shades Mountain Baptist Church at the same time.

At the beginning of their service, which was streamed online April 5, church staff asked members of Shades Mountain Baptist -- and any other Christ-followers who might be watching -- to go to their kitchen and get what they needed. That meant a drink -- juice, Gatorade or water if need be -- and crackers or bread. Then at the end of the service, Pastor Danny Wood led them in taking the meal together.

It's not an uncommon scene right now. As churches are figuring out what it looks like to be the body of Christ during COVID-19 isolation, they're considering what that means for the Lord's Supper. They're asking what it might mean to celebrate communion with "the bread and the cup Zoomed for you" -- as a recent Christianity Today article put it -- or whether to do it at all. It's an especially relevant question as some prepare to observe Good Friday, the day the first Lord's Supper was instituted.

An article published last month by Christianity Today "Online Communion Can Still Be Sacramental" suggests one issue is the question of presence. Does physical presence have to mean sitting next to each other in person or can it mean "together" by way of a virtual connection or in an online room, like a Zoom video meeting? As most churches adhere to guidelines on social distancing and recommendations against gathering in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, communion is yet more uncharted territory.

Virtual communion

Churches who have decided that sharing the meal "together" can mean together virtually are coming up with creative ways to accomplish it:

-- Some churches like Shades Mountain Baptist are asking church members to partake with whatever they have on hand at their house. A staff member then guides them through communion.

-- The Baptist Church at McAdory in McCalla, Ala., offered packets of pre-filled communion cups with wafers attached that church members could pick up at the church and have on hand through the weeks of self-isolation. They would then partake when instructed to during the livestreamed service. Pre-filled communion cups are available from retailers like B&H Publishing or local Christian bookstores.

-- Some churches are asking members to prepare ahead by buying grape juice and unleavened bread (bread without a rising agent) if possible when they're shopping for groceries.

Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala., said he's certain the Lord will use his church's first virtual Lord's Supper -- set for Wednesday (April 8) at 6 p.m. via Facebook Live or Zoom -- to "draw us closer to Him and to each other."

"Part of our Holy Week tradition includes sharing communion on Wednesday evening," he said. "After our time of intensive intercession for our world in crisis, we will shift to sharing the Lord's Supper."

Into the presence of Jesus

At that time, Wolf will invite online participants to go get some form of bread and a cup of juice or soda to symbolize the elements of the communion.

"I will preface the partaking of the bread and cup by inviting everyone to step into the Upper Room and relive the Last Supper," he said. "We do not 'take' the Lord's Supper, but the Lord's Supper should take us into the presence of Jesus."

As they walk through the experience together, they will focus on the steps Jesus took on His way to the cross, starting in Jerusalem, where they will focus on the "bread of blessing" at the cross, and passing through the Garden of Gethsemane, where Wolf will direct their focus to the "cup of commitment."

"Jesus received the cup of doing God's will by sacrificing Himself on the cross for each of us," he said. "After receiving the bread of blessing, it's imperative that we hear and heed Christ's calling to be completely committed to serve the Savior's purpose. So as we take the cup we are committing ourselves to doing God's will."

At the end, they will all sing a hymn of benediction together.

"During this season of social distancing, we need experiences that will draw us closer to Christ and to His Church," Wolf said. "Creatively using the tools of technology for the Lord's work honors the Savior and builds His family."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Many websites include recipes for unleavened bread, also known as matzo, matzah or matza. Examples can be found here and here.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 2:26pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- LifeWay Christian Resources announced that FUGE, StudentLife, Student Life for Kids and CentriKid camps, as well as World Changers projects scheduled for June have been canceled due to concerns stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We've been closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and following the guidance of government and health authorities to ensure we are taking the right actions to protect our campers, staff and the communities where we host camps," said Ben Trueblood, director of students at LifeWay. "Due to the continued health concerns related to COVID-19, we've made the decision to cancel all camp programming for the month of June.

"While we are disappointed, we know this is the right decision to ensure the health and safety of all participants," Trueblood said.

The precautionary move follows the Southern Baptist Convention's decision to cancel its annual meeting, which was scheduled for June 9-10 in Orlando. Numerous public events scheduled for the summer across the nation have been canceled or postponed out of concerns for public safety.

"At this time, we're still planning to hold camps scheduled for July and August," Trueblood said. "We're taking things week by week and will continue to evaluate the situation."

In the meantime, the LifeWay Students team is offering support and digital resources to student ministers during the COVID-19 crisis.

"I've been so encouraged by the work of student ministry leaders to move programming online in the first few weeks of this pandemic," Trueblood said. "It has been an incredible effort fueled by a desire to continue ministering to teenagers.

"Our team wants to come alongside student ministry leaders during these unique times. We've created a hub where student ministers can find free digital Bible studies, advice on how to stay connected with students, and even community and support from other student ministers."

For more information, visit StudentMinistry.LifeWay.com/hub.

"We are praying for student ministry leaders in these challenging times," Trueblood said, "and we are thankful for their commitment to reach teenagers and their families with the Gospel."
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Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 12:50pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Almost 9 in 10 pastors see at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before He returns to Earth, according to a new survey focused on Christian eschatology, or the study of end times.

A study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research of pastors at evangelical and historically black churches found 97 percent say they believe Jesus Christ will literally and personally return to Earth again.

"While Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus' resurrection, many pastors believe they see signs His return may be close," said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. "These sentiments were expressed in January before the prospect of a global pandemic became known."

In Matthew 24, Jesus' disciples asked Him about signs of His coming, and He responded by speaking of "birth pains" that would precede His return.

Darrell Bock, New Testament studies professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, noted that the Bible has several lists of potential signs of Jesus' return, like the Olivet Discourse passages of Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21, and some include concepts of global sicknesses.

"Numerous biblical texts speak of disturbances in the creation that disorient and trouble people," said Bock. "These disturbances have quite a range with earthquakes and wars being the most common. However, Jesus mentions plagues or pestilence explicitly in Luke 21."

According to Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, the idea of birth pains is not unique to the New Testament or evangelicals. He said Ultra-Orthodox Jews also believe that these types of signs are indicators of the Messiah's coming.

"The term used in rabbinic literature, 'birth pangs of Mashiach,' is similar to the Olivet Discourse," Glaser said. "The pandemic is viewed in this way by many religious Jewish people who share a heightened Messianic expectation with evangelicals."

In the study sponsored by a group of ministries led by Chosen People and conducted in early 2020, LifeWay Research asked pastors if they considered certain current events to be included in Jesus' warnings.

At least 3 in 4 pastors agree Jesus was referring to current events, including the rise of false prophets and false teachings (83 percent), the love of many believers growing cold (81 percent), traditional morals becoming less accepted (79 percent), wars and national conflicts (78 percent), earthquakes and other natural disasters (76 percent) and people abandoning their Christian faith (75 percent).

Clear majorities also see famines (70 percent) and anti-Semitism worldwide (63 percent) as signs of Jesus' return.

Around 1 in 10 pastors (11 percent) say they don't consider any of these part of the birth pains to which Jesus was referring.

"For too long many pastors have shied away from teaching on birth pains and events leading up to the second coming," said best-selling author Joel Rosenberg, "but the current pandemic demonstrates the need for solid, non-sensational preaching done in a biblical manner."

More than half of pastors (56 percent) expect Jesus to return in their lifetime.

Perhaps due in part to those beliefs, 89 percent of evangelical and historically black church pastors say that communicating the urgency of Christ's return is important.

While most say they expect Jesus to return while they're still alive, as many pastors say they're not sure (24 percent) as say they strongly agree (25 percent). Three in 10 somewhat agree (31 percent), while 20 percent disagree, including 6 percent who strongly disagree.

Among those more likely to disagree Jesus will return during their lifetime are pastors ages 18 to 44 (27 percent) and pastors of churches with 250 or more in attendance (28 percent).

"Whether Jesus' return is near or far, Christians believe these disturbances represent the groaning of creation, reminders of our mortality, our need for God and the accountability we have to Him for life, both now and forever," Bock said.

Other signs

Pastors also are likely to see several events related to Israel and the Jewish people as fulfillment of biblical prophecy and signs of the end times.

Seven in 10 evangelical or black Protestant pastors (70 percent) say the modern rebirth of the state of Israel and the regathering of millions of Jewish people were fulfillments of prophecies in the Bible.

Similar numbers (69 percent) say those events show Christ's return is closer.

Around 2 in 5 pastors (39 percent) agree that the establishment of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is a sign of the end times.

Most (62 percent) believe another temple will be built in Jerusalem in accordance with a prophecy in Ezekiel 40-48.

Many make end times connections to Israel and specifically Jerusalem, in part, because 73 percent believe that Christ will return and reign in Jerusalem in fulfillment of God's promises to David.

More than half of pastors (57 percent) believe the Bible teaches that one day most or all Jewish people alive will believe in Jesus.

Close to 3 in 5 (59 percent) say Jesus will return when the Jewish people accept Jesus.

Nearly all pastors (98 percent) believe sharing the Gospel with Jewish people is important.

Among those who believe Jewish evangelism is vital, they give a variety of reasons why.

More than 99 percent say it is important to share the Gospel with all people groups. Nine in 10 pastors (89 percent) say because Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. More than 4 in 5 (82 percent) believe Jewish people are special in God's sight. The same percentage point to God's promise to preserve a faithful remnant of Jewish people.

Around two-thirds of pastors (67 percent) say sharing the Gospel with Jewish people is important because the apostle Paul's pattern was to evangelize Jewish people first. More than a quarter (28 percent) say Jewish evangelism will speed up the return of Christ.

"There are details of Christ's return and His reign that scholars disagree on," said McConnell. "However, the vast majority of pastors believe certain current events correspond with prophesies Jesus Himself gave about things that would occur right before He returns."

End times teaching

Regardless of how close they believe the return of Christ is, most pastors feel confident in teaching on the subject.

Virtually all evangelical and black Protestant pastors (94 percent) say they feel equipped to teach on the prophecies found in the Bible, though more than a third did not give the highest level of agreement.

Most pastors also believe it is important to study and teach on biblical prophecies and eschatology.

Around 3 in 5 say it is important to preach on end times prophecies in the book of Revelation (60 percent) and the Old Testament (60 percent), as well as to spend time personally studying eschatology (57 percent).

A quarter of pastors (24 percent) speak to their congregations about end times prophecies at least once a month. Close to half (48 percent) say they do so several times a year.

Around 1 in 10 pastors say they talk about it with their church about once a year (11 percent). The same number (11 percent) say they do so rarely. Few say they never speak to their congregation about those prophecies (3 percent).

"The current global pandemic will create interest among churchgoers and nonreligious people about what the Bible says about plagues, disasters and the end times," said McConnell. "The urgency pastors feel is less about stockpiling toilet paper and more about helping people be ready for Christ's return."

Methodology:

The phone survey of 1,000 pastors from evangelical and historically black denominations was conducted Jan. 24 to Feb. 11, 2020 and was sponsored by Chosen People Ministries, Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem, Rich and Judy Hastings, and the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all evangelical and historically black churches. Quotas were used for church size.

Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

For more information, visit LifeWayResearch.com or download the report.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 12:42pm
EDITOR'S NOTE: J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

DURHAM, N.C. (BP) -- The mission of every church -- no matter its size, no matter its circumstance -- is rooted in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world 2,000 years ago, he didn't give an exception clause.

A few weeks ago, however, it became clear that we couldn't keep running the same plays and be effective in that mission as a church. If we were to be faithful to the Great Commission, we would need to reimagine nearly every aspect of our "normal" ministry.

For the church at which I serve, The Summit Church, we put nearly everything else aside and rallied around our core values, none of which have changed:

1. We still prioritize the Gospel above all.

2. We still do whatever it takes to reach all people.

3. We still make disciples, not just converts.

4. We still send every member.

The mission of your church hasn't changed either. But changing times call for changing strategies. Your old methods, ministries and meetings aren't equipped to lead you through this current crisis. (This isn't your fault: Ours weren't either. No one's were.)

Thankfully, the Spirit of Christ is with us, and that Spirit is more than sufficient for the task. Just as He guided the early Christians in a rapidly changing world for extraordinary effectiveness, so He will guide us.

At the Summit, we decided on five areas of special focus for this season. Our executive pastor, David Thompson, synthesized this refocus for our staff this past week and I thought this was helpful for all of us.

These aren't new, but are new formulations of the church's mission, tailored to a moment of unique crisis. As you try to rewrite your church playbook on the fly, I'd encourage you to look to these five areas as well:

1. Care: The church is God's family, and we are commanded to care for one another, love one another, pray for one another, and carry each other's burdens. Paul tells us, "Do good to all men, but especially those of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10). All care efforts should begin in the household of God.

Today, we are all churches filled with shut-ins. Our goal is to make sure every member is contacted, checked on and relationally connected to the body of Christ. We wanted to start by reaching out to those who might be hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. So our first point of care was to call every one of our older members, our medical professionals, single parents, hourly workers and first responders.

We asked all of our small group leaders to connect with each of their members. We encouraged these groups to continue meeting virtually, and we equipped them with the resources to have video-based meetings. (If you're unsure of how this works, join the club. We had never done it before either!) Having connected with everyone in those first groups, we are now working to contact every member.

2. Connection: Much of what I wrote in that first point (care) is really about connection. That's because connection is always the first step of caring for someone. But the more we are isolated during stay-at-home orders, the more significant the role of connection becomes. I might even say that during this crisis, connection becomes the first, second, and third steps of care.

We are encouraging our members to contact everyone who comes into their minds. It is entirely likely that the mere fact you are thinking about them is God's prompting for you to reach out to them.

As we are doing this, we are helping those who have been disconnected to reconnect. Now is a time when many are realizing that their lives lack the community to sustain them through a crisis. So we're encouraging members to help their neighbors connect to the church by making it easy to invite others to watch our services that are being broadcast online. We've even started a few new small groups in the past couple of weeks!

We want to do whatever we can to ensure that when our friends and neighbors are searching for relief and answers, they think to turn to us. That moment of crisis may hit them tomorrow, next week or next month. We need to connect today.

3. Content and Communication: Consistent communication with our church has always been important. But with weekend gatherings not happening, we need to be much more intentional about keeping people informed. We certainly don't want to bombard people with emails (we may have overdone it a bit the first week), but we are finding our rhythm and we have updated our website with specific and relevant resources.

One of the most important pieces we've provided is content for discipleship for our members to use at home. We made a resource called "Don't Waste Your Quarantine," which provides resources for Bible reading, small groups and community outreach.

We've pointed our people to special online classes they can take, provided by our Summit Institute and even our local seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We've helped our members grow in the grace of stewardship through online giving. (For more about transitioning your church to online giving, check out Art Rainer and Blair Graham's 6 Ways to Encourage Online Giving.)

This quarantine is a hindrance, but it's also an opportunity for families, with all of this time together, to develop new spiritual habits. It's part of what Paul meant when he told us to "redeem the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16)! I've heard from families about their beginning family devotions for the first time.

4. Community: Jesus sent us here to be his ambassadors to this world. I am praying that every one of our churches is a light on a hill, bringing joy and hope to the community in which it lives. We are communicating to our congregation ways they can continue to serve our community -- from area ministries that are still receiving volunteers, to blood drives, to ways they can reach out to their neighbors while maintaining social distancing standards.

Our generosity, courage and self-sacrifice should drive others to "ask a reason for the hope that is in us" (1 Peter 3:15). This is not a time for the church to draw backwards in fear, but to move forward in faith. Self-sacrifice -- not self-preservation -- is the priority of the servant of Christ.

During this quarantine, neither the power of the Gospel nor the Spirit of God is restrained. As Russell Moore put it several weeks ago: don't quarantine the Great Commission. We can still love one another, reach out to each other and give generously to reach the world during this dark and confusing time.

I'm praying for you and your church as you continue to fulfill his mission. Jesus promised, "I am with you always."

Read more...

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 12:36pm
NEW ORLEANS -- For Joe and Graham Waller -- brothers as well as New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary students -- moving to online classes during the stay-at-home mandate is bringing adjustments and lessons.

Graham, blind since childhood, continues with his Leavell College classes online, listening to lectures in two classes and logging in for voice lessons via social media.

Joe, a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) student in theology, sees advantages in the all-online format such as a sense of togetherness in classroom discussion now that everyone is online rather than a few joining as distance-learners.

Both know the times are filled with uncertainty.

For Graham, the isolation brings some loneliness. He misses interacting with others on campus and at his volunteer job at New Orleans' WWII Museum, a favorite pastime that fits with his love of history. For Joe, his on campus job is "on hold."

Still, Joe and Graham believe God is at work.

"My mom is always saying, 'God doesn't waste anything,'" Graham said. "He's going to use this somehow."

Author of the book of poetry "As I Learn to Walk," Joe penned the poem "At The End" weeks before the outbreak, a reminder to readers that God brings good out of bad times. The poem reads: "How many hours of testing will reveal themselves to be the reasons for our joys? ... How many things seemed only to offend but deepened both my love and faith in you?"

Graham misses the coffee shop he frequently visited close to his off-campus home. It is now closed.

With the WWII museum closed as well, Graham misses working with other volunteers and his opportunities to talk with WWII or Vietnam War veterans.

"Even if I didn't get out much before this started, the fact that I can't get out now is weighing on me," Graham said.

But Graham has been through tough times before.

The brain tumor that robbed him of his sight came when he was a child. A verse he learned in Bible drill, Psalm 56:3 -- "What time I am afraid, I will trust in You" -- helped him through the difficult time.

Graham wrote an article sharing his story for a recent issue of "Exceptional Times," a magazine published by a New Orleans organization that supports people with disabilities.

In the article, he shared that as realization came that he would be blind, his family encouraged him saying, "With God's help, we can figure out how to live with this."

At the end of the article, Graham admitted he has questions still about his future, but that he never forgets lessons learned in the past.

"I have faced difficult and discouraging times," Graham wrote. "But God is always faithful."

As youth minister at Poydras Baptist Church in the New Orleans area, Joe serves alongside members who were greatly affected by Hurricane Katrina and who know loss and uncertainty.

"They are some of the most servant-hearted people I've ever met," Joe said. "They are humble and very giving. Their faith is real."

During these uncertain times, it is important to remember that God is in control, Joe explained. He noted that believers can see this time as an opportunity to "really focus on and listen to the Lord," he said, adding that his goal is to use the time in that manner.

"I absolutely believe that God has plans in this and is doing things we may not be able to see right now," Joe said.

For Graham, blessings he's experienced in the past such as a mission trip to Romania, or trips to New York City and Miami with other seminary students, will someday come again, because God is faithful.

"I can trust Him with whatever fears I may have," Graham said. "With my blindness, there was a lot uncertain, and now it's even less certain. I could choose not to trust Him, but looking back, He's never failed before. I've got no reason to believe He will fail me now."
Read more...

Monday, April 6, 2020 - 6:26pm
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Pieces of papyrus sold as rare fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary a decade ago are "likely fraudulent" and the seminary might seek financial restitution, the school announced in a statement Monday (April 6).

"The Dead Sea Scrolls fragments were acquisitions of the prior administration," the statement said. "Because we have had very little confidence in their authenticity, the fragments have never been on public display since the arrival of the new seminary administration in February 2019."

The six fragments were purchased in two separate acquisitions in 2010 during the presidency of Paige Patterson, with seed money from Texas businessman and then-SWBTS trustee Gary Loveless. While the former and current SWBTS administrations have declined to reveal the purchase price, comparable pieces -- although revealed to be forgeries -- have sold for millions of dollars.

SWBTS made the statement in response to a media inquiry from Christianity Today. In response to an inquiry Monday from Baptist Press, a SWBTS spokesman referred to the statement.

"The fragments are in a secure location and have not been available to the general public in some years," the school said in the statement. "The current administration's lack of confidence in the fragments' authenticity has been confirmed by an October 2018 report prepared for the seminary's Board of Trustees by faculty associated with studying the collection. That report, which was recently provided to the current administration, found that by as early as 2016, some seminary faculty had become convinced at least some of the fragments were possible forgeries."

SWBTS also announced it would discontinue the SWBTS archaeology program "as part of campus-wide budgetary reductions necessitated by the financial challenges associated with COVID-19." More details on the program's discontinuance are anticipated after the SWBTS Board of Trustee meeting, which is scheduled to be held online Tuesday (April 7).

Patterson did not respond Monday to requests for comment made through several channels. But while president of SWBTS, he lauded the acquisition of the fragments.

"One cannot overestimate the significance of these valuable artifacts for Southwestern Seminary, for Fort Worth, for Texas and for all the Americas," Patterson said in October 2010. "I cannot but express my gratitude to our Lord for enabling us to be a significant part of this ongoing vital research."

Patterson was terminated by the SWBTS Board of Trustees in May 2018, according to a statement released then by the school, over his "handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during [Patterson's] presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS's biblically informed core values."

Adam W. Greenway was elected to succeed Patterson, becoming SWBTS’ ninth president, in February 2019.

SWBTS announced the purchase of the first fragments in Jan. 2010. They share provenance with five fragments purchased by the Museum of the Bible, which were later revealed to be fake. The statement from SWBTS said the school is considering its options to recoup certain expenses related to the purchases.

"We are contemplating legal remedies to seek restitution of payments made by the seminary, as authorized by the prior administration," the school said in the statement.

Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds, are believed to have been buried in caves in Qumran along the Dead Sea for 2000 years, predating the earliest scriptural manuscripts previously available. Only a few scrolls were found intact; other specimens were only fragments, which are rare.

The statement from SWBTS said results from an independent investigation into the Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scrolls collection, which found its fragments were not authentic, "gives us even less confidence in our collection." It said SWBTS "would welcome" an independent investigation into its own fragments, though it added that the school would not be able to fund an investigation.

"Given that significant institutional resources were expended on the acquisition and promotion of the likely fraudulent fragments," SWBTS said in the statement, "it is not prudent for the seminary to spend further precious funds on them."

Forgeries of Dead Sea Scrolls fragments have been seen since 2002, according to CNN.

Loveless, an early SWBTS benefactor supporting the purchase of the papyri, could not be reached for comment. The amount of his donation has not been revealed.
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Monday, April 6, 2020 - 5:33pm
ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) -- Simply by playing video games with his own children, Curtis James came up with a ministry idea that has gone nationwide.

The virtual Easter egg hunt, to be hosted on a Minecraft server Easter Sunday, April 12, stemmed from the desire of Tate Springs Baptist Church to engage entire families, both adults and children, even as meeting together was not an option during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"After looking through some online options my mind went to a game I had played with my own children," said James, family pastor at Tate Springs, who added that using the popular game that allows people to interact virtually while building made sense because, "It was a place most kids have already been that we could gather together for Bible Study, fun and an Easter egg hunt."

Initially, the plan was to serve the church family. But when others became aware of the idea, interest grew -- and James quickly realized more people would be hunting virtual Easter eggs than they had planned. The National Esports Association (NEA), a nonprofit educational organization, stepped in to offer free expertise and resources to Tate Springs.

"They feel it is a great opportunity to come together in a time when people feel separated," James said. "They have the tools to allow the event to grow exponentially."

James said the NEA is now hosting the Easter egg hunt on its servers and is designing a server that will be better equipped for such a large group of participants.

"We are now capable of handling a nationwide event, so we encourage churches from all over to join us to celebrate the resurrection," James said.

In addition to creating a space for families to have fun together, the event itself will feature components designed to share the Gospel.

"Anyone who participates will receive a video sharing the Gospel with a way to contact us with questions," James explained. "It is our desire to connect anyone who makes a decision with a local church to follow up with them."

James said they will be posting a Gospel video and music on video game livestreaming services including the NEA Mixer account, Tate Spring's Twitch account and Facebook Live.

The event has garnered widespread attention, including from secular news outlets, because of its creativity during a time when most traditional events related to Easter have been canceled. James said several organizations including libraries have inquired and would like to participate. He is beginning to envision new possibilities for outreach avenues.

"This is an open door for future engagement," James said. "I have had many in our community reach out to me to get their child connected to our server and Easter event.

Jared Wellman, lead pastor at Tate Springs, said the potential for ministry in this area is only just beginning.

"We are on the front end of the possibilities, but our minds are already spinning," Wellman said. "We believe people will have an appetite for these kinds of virtual events in the future."

Other churches are latching onto the idea as well, creating Minecraft worlds of their own by referencing the tutorial videos Tate Springs' staff has created.

James said he was personally encouraged to see conversation surrounding Easter shift to a positive note.

"There's a lot of bad news out there right now and celebrating the resurrection together is the best news," James said. "We want everyone to know that Jesus is alive and that even in dark times we can celebrate who He is and what He has done."

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Monday, April 6, 2020 - 4:50pm
Missionary thanks Southern Baptists for support during pandemic
By Hugh Johnson*

I woke up confused Sunday morning. The bedside clock read 6 a.m., but my iPhone said 7 a.m. I had forgotten it was Sunday. And I had definitely forgotten that in this part of Europe the clocks had "sprung forward" at midnight on March 29.

In previous years my family has relied on the semiannual reminder in church to reset our clocks so as not to be late (or early) for the following Sunday's services. But this year there was no local church service the week before, nor helpful reminders of the time change on the TV news the night before. Coronavirus has consumed the TV headlines just as it has almost every other aspect of daily life. Each day during the global lockdown has seemed like any other. No routine. No rhythm. No normal.

One of life's joys as a missionary is the many opportunities we have to see, almost daily, how faithfully God provides when our skills, education, professional knowledge and language abilities are inadequate. Although painful, we have been able to count it a blessing to be brought low, and we find ourselves thankful. We're thankful to God and we're thankful for the ways He is using you.

As our family and millions of others around the world adjust to many more weeks or months of a new home-based "normal," we need to find innovative ways to connect with family, friends, work colleagues, fellow local believers and ministry contacts. Our circumstances challenge us to look outside our familiar patterns of life and to see opportunities to do things differently. We can let God use this global crisis to stretch and shape us. We can look beyond ourselves to the needs of others. In our weakness and loss of control over our daily lives we can put into practice the words of Philippians 4:19: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

During this pandemic, we are forced to trust God like never before and to live the truth of Paul's words in Philippians 4:11-13: "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

Sunday started out in confusion, but quickly became memorable for the right reasons. We see how God is using you -- our fellow Southern Baptist believers -- to provide exactly the kind of encouragement and practical help that Paul writes about in Philippians 4.

The coronavirus has caused our stateside home church to move to a live webcast format. So, for the first time in our 16 years of field service, we have been able to join our stateside home church for online Sunday morning worship services (evening for us), complete with a shared Lord's Supper. The familiar faces and voices of these friends give us the spiritual refreshment and encouragement that we so desperately need right now. Like Paul we can say, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly. You were indeed concerned for me" (v.10).

And even though your families are also suffering during this time of global fear and uncertainty, you continue to bless us in many practical ways by your generosity of spirit and your sacrificial gifts. Again, Paul's words speak for us: "Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble (v.14)" and "... you sent me help for my needs once and again" (v.16).

Living far from family in troubling times like these, it is reassuring and affirming for missionary families to know that we can say, "I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (v.18). And knowing that so many of you are praying for us truly helps us to sense "... the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding." (v.7)

To our 15 million fellow believers in more than 47,000 Southern Baptist churches, and from my family to yours, I want to say "thank you!" May these challenging days become an opportunity for each of you to know God's peace as, with thanksgiving, you make your needs known to Him.

*Name changed.

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Storyline Fellowship calls JT English as lead pastor
By Staff

ARVADA, Colo. (BP) -- Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colo., called JT English to be the church's new lead pastor Sunday (April 5). Since October 2014, English has served on staff at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, launching the Village Church Institute discipleship strategy there and serving on the church's executive team. The Village Church Institute was founded in order to ground theological education and discipleship primarily in the local church. Over the past five years, several thousand people have participated.

Storyline, a five-year-old North American Mission Board church plant, had been searching for a new leader since last July, when founding pastor Ben Mandrell became president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

The search process took an unusual turn when Colorado churches were encouraged by city officials to begin meeting online only, due to the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

"Even in the midst of that," Storyline elder chairman Jeff Schaffer said, "we never sensed that God was pushing pause on this process."

Storyline quickly transformed the in-person plan for presenting a lead pastor candidate to the church into a virtual experience. Leaders announced English as the candidate as part of online services March 29 and replaced an in-person reception with multiple online gatherings throughout that week for Storyline members.

English recorded his sermon in view of a call at The Village Church, and it was included as a part of Storyline's online worship service April 5. After a member vote that afternoon, members gathered in an online webinar where it was announced that English is the new Lead Pastor.

"I could not be more excited to be the next Lead Pastor of Storyline Fellowship," English said. "Colorado has always been home for my family, and we are thrilled that God would allow us to come home and lead this church. ... God has been so faithful to Storyline over the past five years and I believe he will continue in our next chapter."

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Harrison affirmed as president of The Baptist Home
By Becky Barton

IRONTON, Mo. (BP) -- The Baptist Home board of trustees voted unanimously April 3 to confirm Rodney Harrison as The Baptist Home's next president, making him only the seventh president in The Home's 107-year history.

Harrison began serving as the transitional president for The Home in late December in preparation for former president Steven Jones' retirement in January. The historic vote was made by the trustees during their April 3 board meeting, which was held online due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Baptist Home is a Missouri Baptist senior adult residential care ministry with four locations.

Ken Parker, trustee chairman for The Baptist Home and pastor of First Baptist Church, Kearney, Mo., extolled Harrison's "commitment to the Lord, to the church and to Missouri Baptists, and to the ministry of The Baptist Home."

"I'm excited about the future of The Baptist Home," Parker said, "and I think that Dr. Harrison is going to be able to build on the strengths at The Home and is going to help us walk into the future in such a positive way. He is going to do a phenomenal job."

Harrison told The Pathway that he and his wife Julie are "humbled by the opportunity to lead and serve The Baptist Home. Throughout the process, I have clearly sensed the Holy Spirit's direction, and am honored by the stewardship the Board has placed upon me."

"Ours is a Sanctity of Life ministry," he added. "The mission of The Baptist Home is informed by Scripture and articulated in Article XV of the Baptist Faith and Message. Respecting life until natural death is a commitment and purpose that all Baptists can and will affirm. This is our God given purpose, and to this end, please join me in praying for wisdom as I lead this ministry."

Harrison said that, in days to come, The Baptist Home will not only care for residents at the Home's four campuses, but also that it will provide resources to help Missouri Baptist churches minister to senior adults and promote the sanctity of life for people of all ages.

Harrison encourages Missouri Baptists to take virtual tours of the Baptist Home locations at www.thebaptisthome.org and, after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, to visit The Home's campuses in person.

"Thank you very, very much for your support over the years," Harrison said. "I am thankful to Missouri Baptists for being faithful to us."

Harrison is dean of academic strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, where he has been a professor for 17 years. As a registered nurse since 1983, he also has an extensive background in health care and health care administration.

Harrison studied at Dallas Baptist University, obtaining his bachelor of arts degree in health care administration. He worked on a Master of Divinity in Biblical Languages at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 1995, Harrison completed his Master of Arts in Christian Education from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at Gateway Baptist Seminary, while his wife, Julie, began studies on a Master of Arts in Biblical Archaeology, which she completed at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In addition to authoring numerous published books, articles and papers, Harrison has served for 10 years as a consultant, mentor and coach for several academic institutions across the country, including Hannibal-LaGrange University and Missouri Baptist University.

Harrison said he "could not have envisioned how God would use health care training from 40 years ago as a platform for this privilege and stewardship."

He said he initially had no aspiration to pursue the president's position at The Home. However, after only a few weeks as transitional president, he fell in love with the people at each of the four campuses. He said he began to feel God tugging at his heart.

"I feel called to serve at The Baptist Home and believe God has brought me back full circle," he said.

The Harrisons live on a small farm near Holt, Mo., in a log home they restored. He enjoys hunting, fishing, history and motorcycles. They are members of First Baptist Kearney, Mo., and have three children and nine grandchildren who live nearby.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article includes additional reporting from Pathway associate editor Benjamin Hawkins.
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Monday, April 6, 2020 - 4:12pm
NOBTS/Leavell College fostering community from a distance
By Gary D. Myers

NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Safety and academic success were the top concerns addressed in the initial response of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College to the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon, maintaining community connections and spiritual health from a distance became a priority.

After initial hope that the alternative delivery methods would be temporary, state and local officials began calling for stricter social distancing measures. As a result, NOBTS and Leavell College leaders began looking for ways to foster community and growth while maintaining physical separation. Students and faculty members have responded with their own grassroots efforts to maintain connections.

Daily updates from Dew

The most vital connection point for the seminary family has been the daily video update featuring NOBTS/Leavell College president Jamie Dew. Dew has been recording and posting the updates every weekday for the campus community since March 16. In addition to providing vital information for students, faculty and staff, Dew has used the videos to encourage the NOBTS family with scripture readings and devotions.

In recent days, the videos have addressed emergency financial needs of students, job search information and tips for maintaining emotional and spiritual health during this time of isolation. Dew and his wife Tara also posted an update with ways to help families cope with the challenges of COVID-19. For less campus-specific updates and encouragement, Dew is posting new episodes on his "Towel and Basin" podcast.

Community from a distance

With the stay-at-home order in New Orleans extended until at least April 30, additional campus connection efforts have developed -- both official and grassroots.

The Student Life Office and the cafeteria launched the idea of a "social distancing picnic" on March 26. The cafeteria cooked hamburgers and the student life staff created a safe "grab-and-go" distribution method. Families were encouraged to pick up their food, return to their residential area and eat their picnic in the green spaces near their apartments while maintaining a safe physical distance from others. Faculty families enjoyed their picnics in their front yards. The picnic gave seminary families much-needed opportunities to chat with others while staying safe. On April 2, the cafeteria and student life offered the seminary's famous red beans and rice as a takeout meal and encouraged the seminary family to eat outside again.

To break the monotony of the stay-at-home order, many have been sharing activity ideas via the seminary's campus life Facebook group. After a few families began creating chalk drawings on campus sideways near their residences, the idea quickly spread throughout campus. While some drawings were abstract and simple, many were elaborate and most included messages of hope from scripture. Mothers who live on campus also have been sharing child-friendly and family activity ideas through the Facebook group. One of the most frequent contributors in the group has been Tara Dew, the president's wife. She has shared multiple indoor and outdoor ideas for homeschoolers that can be done while maintaining social distance, as well as a number of ideas designed to foster family spiritual growth during this unique time.

Online devotions, encouragement and connection

On March 24 (normally a chapel day), the school posted an encouragement update from the scheduled chapel speaker -- Dustin Turner, pastor of Vintage Church in New Orleans. NOBTS/Leavell College has requested similar videos from each scheduled chapel speaker. These will be posted in order to help students maintain spiritual health during the time of isolation.

To hear directly from students and to understand their needs, Dew scheduled a video prayer meeting using BlueJeans software during the scheduled chapel time on April 2. More than 70 students participated in the first session and were able to discuss their needs with Dew. Many of the students expressed growing financial challenges as well as concerns for friends and extended family members who have been diagnosed with the virus.

Ministry was another chief prayer concern. Many of the students serve as pastors or ministers in local churches and have seen their roles expand during the pandemic. Several students asked for prayers for wisdom and strength regarding their response to the needs of their congregations. One participant, a licensed counselor, offered to assist any of the students who are in need of counseling related to this time of stress and isolation. Based on the initial response to the meeting and the number of needs expressed, Dew said plans are underway for additional student video prayer meetings in the coming weeks.

Women's ministry leaders and faculty wives have also used social media to encourage student wives and women students during this time of isolation. Each day a women's ministry leader posts an encouraging video in the campus life Facebook group to foster community and spiritual health from a distance.

Virtual counseling
During his April 1 video update, Dew announced that the Leeke Magee Christian Counseling Center on campus will soon launch virtual counseling options for students and other members of the seminary community. Due to state and local stay-at-home orders, the center closed for face-to-face counseling sessions in mid-March. Dew said the staff has worked diligently to create a virtual counseling model which will begin in the near future.

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SWBTS church revitalization conference goes online
By Alex Sibley and Katie Coleman

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- With nearly 80 percent of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention plateaued or declining, church revitalization is a necessary ministry, said Kenneth Priest, interim director of the Center for Church Revitalization at The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Addressing pastors during the Church Revitalization Conference, which was held fully online April 1, Priest said that in light of the importance of such a ministry, the conference aimed to help pastors answer the question, "Are you doing all that you can do to reach the nations where God has planted you for the purpose of advancing the Gospel?"

The conference featured multiple speakers with ties to SWBTS, including president Adam W. Greenway, who began the conference with a session titled "Biblical Revitalization." Greenway traced the story of the church of Ephesus from Acts 20 to 1 and 2 Timothy and concluding in Revelation 2. The church's story revealed its need for revitalization over time, Greenway said, which is "a word and reminder to us about the task of revitalization: it is a perennial one."

"It's a perpetual ministry," Greenway said. "A ministry of fidelity and faithfulness to the Gospel and to the Scriptures and to our Lord is a ministry of revitalization."

Greenway asserted that, unless someone is called to plant a church, all ministers are ultimately called to church revitalization.

"The tendency [for churches] is always going to be to drift, to become distracted, dissuaded, diverted from the purpose and the plan," Greenway explained. "That's why you're there, pastor. That's why your ministry is so critical, because you're the one who is standing in the gap, consistently and constantly calling your people back to what matters most, back to the first things, back to the Scriptures, back to the mission."

Greenway added that revitalization is not only a biblical calling and a biblical paradigm, but it "represents the heart of what ought to characterize the pastor of the church for the long haul."

"Our work," he explained, "should be always that we are committed to doing what we can to help our churches, our people, those entrusted to our care, to be the kind of people who are found faithful -- faithful in terms of their life and doctrine and beliefs; faithful in terms of their ministries and their work and their duties; keeping the main thing, the main thing; always centering ourselves around the Word of God and what matters most.

"That's what I believe is a biblical paradigm for revitalization. That's what I believe ought to characterize us."

SWBTS graduate Matt Henslee, senior pastor at Mayhill Baptist Church in New Mexico, also spoke at the conference, covering the topic "The Sufficiency of Scripture in Church Revitalization." He taught from 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5.

Henslee, a Doctor of Ministry student at SWBTS, noted the primary task for all church pastors: faithfully preaching the Word and faithfully reaching the lost. All of this, he explained, comes from a foundational belief that Scripture is sufficient in every aspect of the pastor's calling and is what drives everything pastors do in the lives of their churches.

"We have to get after it," Henslee said. "I have to get after it. Eternity is coming for all of us, and heaven and hell hang in the balance for all around us. So, before God and Christ Jesus, our righteous Judge, we are to preach the Word. We need to get it straight and give it straight. A faithful preacher or teacher will do nothing short of this."

Next, conference attendees were asked to consider whether they should pursue doctoral studies while revitalizing a church. Speaking on this were Shane Parker, director of the Doctor of Educational Ministries program at Southwestern Seminary, and Coleman Ford, director of professional doctoral programs.

Opening their session, Parker asked the conference attendees, "Can you successfully revitalize your church without guidance and accountability?"

Parker explained that while these might be found elsewhere, one of the primary sources is a doctoral program. Reflecting on his own experiences in local church ministry, including two pastorates, he added, "Doctoral study really did provide exactly what I needed to be effective and more certain of what I was doing in revitalization."

Ford outlined five reasons why a doctoral program at SWBTS might be beneficial for pastors revitalizing a church: "It connects you to a network of other like-minded ministry leaders; it trains you to become an expert practitioner in the area of church revitalization; church revitalization gives you a natural habitat or laboratory for your doctoral work; doctoral work is formative for you as a leader; and professional doctoral studies allow you to access mentors and coaches who have been part of revitalization efforts."

To learn about SWBTS' Doctor of Ministry in Church Revitalization, see here.

Following the discussion of doctoral program opportunities, Ken Hemphill, the seventh president of SWBTS who now serves as special assistant to the president at North Greenville University, spoke on practical ways that revitalization happens in the local church.

"There is an integral connection between local church health and Kingdom expansion," Hemphill said. "There is a very real connection that if we are going to be involved in empowering Kingdom growth or expansion, then the local church health and thus revitalization is critical."

Hemphill continued that his "absolute conviction" is that church growth is supernatural. He concluded that there are three essential steps in the process: a change of heart, a change in thinking, and ultimately a change in behavior.

Churches accomplish this in partnership with the Holy Spirit by basing everything on Scripture, being careful to distinguish between what is biblical and what is simply Baptist.

"A lot of what we cling to is more tradition-led than Bible-led," Hemphill said. "We are not trying to please a denomination; we are trying to please the Lord.

"We have to maintain with our people, is this a biblical issue? Is this a biblical priority? And obviously, you have to keep the focus on the Great Commission."

Matt Queen, L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism, served as the conference's penultimate speaker. Basing his presentation primarily on his book Mobilize to Evangelize: The Pastor and Congregational Evangelism (available from Seminary Hill Press here), Queen spoke on the topic "Assessing Your Church's Evangelism for Revitalization."

Queen built his presentation on two essential themes: first, "Outside the work and power of the Holy Spirit, a church's pastor is the most influential factor upon its effectiveness in evangelism"; and second, "No church will exceed its pastor's passion for and practice of evangelism. Likewise, no church will succeed in evangelism if its pastor fails to practice and have passion for evangelism."

The primary takeaway, therefore, was for pastors to lead their churches in evangelism. Means of doing so include setting expectations (such as setting the goal for church members to share the Gospel once a month, once a week, or even once a day), and encouraging the use of guidelines for doing evangelism, Queen said. Among the guidelines Queen listed are the "homestead guideline," which means sharing the Gospel with anyone who comes to an individual's home (such as a salesperson, delivery man, or repairman), and the "five-minute guideline," which means sharing with anyone with whom an individual has more than five minutes to speak (like on a flight, in a waiting room, or at a ball game).

"You can actually be effective in your evangelism without having to spend one more dollar, without having to build one more building, without having to hire one more staff person," Queen concluded. "It just takes you being more intentional in your evangelism ... by just making some little tweaks, looking at what you're doing in evangelism, and then being intentional about it. It will make all the difference in you and in your church and in the Kingdom of God."

Kenneth Priest, who, in addition to his role at SWBTS, serves as director of convention strategies for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, concluded the conference by addressing "Church Revitalization in the Midst of COVID." Specifically, he spoke on what churches need to focus on "now, next, and beyond."

Now, Priest said, churches must prioritize the ministry needs of church members and of the community, such as buying and delivering groceries for senior adults who cannot venture out of their homes. In addition, churches must make good use of technology for worship, small group and committee meetings, and online giving, Priest said.

Regarding "next," Priest encouraged pastors to consider how they are going to "relaunch" their worship services.

"Just because we get the clearance to go back, to interact with people in person, and we start having worship services, we don't need to just show up at worship on Sunday morning; we need to make an event out of this. You need to relaunch worship," he said.

Similarly, Priest added, churches must "relaunch" their community engagement.

"As soon as you get the green light, you need to be in the community -- knocking on doors, holding block parties, doing whatever you can to let the community know, 'The church is here, we want to serve you, we've been praying for you, this is what we can do,'" Priest said. "... Don't get comfortable with the fact that you've gone online. Make sure that you're using this as an opportunity to reengage those who are out there in person."

Finally, Priest covered "beyond," encouraging pastors to learn from the past and ensure financial reserves are well established.

"The next time that the grass is green and the wheat is growing, we need to build up some reserves," he said. "We need to ensure that we have enough reserves so that once we reestablish our ministry, if we have a crisis that comes again, we're prepared for it."

Priest specifically recommended having four to six months of reserves for fixed expenses.

"God teaches us to be wise stewards," he said. "We need to store up for the rainy day and make sure that we're prepared for those times."

Other speakers at the day-long event included Bob Bickford, lead pastor of the Groves Church in St. Louis, Missouri; James Womack, senior pastor of Destiny Church in Fort Worth; and Kyle Bueermann, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Alamagordo, New Mexico.

To view each of the Revitalization Conference sessions, see here.
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Monday, April 6, 2020 - 3:58pm
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Never, and I do mean never, have Southern Baptists needed to gather together to pray for one another, for America, and for the world, like we need to pray right now. The COVID-19 global pandemic is touching the lives of our people and others across the world. As the number of deaths continues to rise, our economy simultaneously sinks -- and these alarming realities create great uncertainty and concern for the future.

Our Southern Baptist churches -- pastors, church staff, laypeople and missionaries, as well as the employees of our local associations, state conventions and national entities -- have an opportunity to come together at 12 p.m. CDT on Good Friday (April 10) for a concentrated time of prayer.

As we celebrate Easter weekend with hope in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, please make every effort to join Southern Baptists from across America and around the world praying for God's intervention in this major global crisis.

Our focus will be on prayer and Scripture reading. We hope to gather as many Baptists as possible to join in one online gathering to pray together for:

-- The end of this pandemic.

-- The healing of God's power upon all who are sick with this virus and comfort for those who have lost loved ones -- we already have pastors and laypeople who are infected and ill, and some dying.

-- Those on the front lines of this battle: our doctors, nurses and other medical staff, as well as first responders and military personnel.

-- Government leaders at the federal, state and local levels, as well as members of the Coronavirus Task Force.

-- Our more than 47,500 Southern Baptist churches, our pastors and church members, our 5,017 North American missionaries, our 3,500 endorsed chaplains and our 3,700 international missionaries and their 2,880 children.

-- The advancement of the Gospel in this challenging season throughout the towns, cities, states, and nations of this world.

-- The spiritual awakening that could emerge through this global pandemic.

-- The personal needs of all who join us in this prayer gathering.

We need to gather together for prayer. Thankfully, we have the ability to engage people online, both in our nation and throughout the entire world.

This will not be a preaching event. The focus is on praying as one body. We will talk to God together. Gather your friends and families and let's petition our mighty God and ask for His miraculous intervention.

During the SBC Good Friday Online Prayer Gathering, other Southern Baptist leaders will join me for Scripture readings and prayers. Those include: Julio Arriola, Marshal Ausberry, Jacob Boss, Paul Chitwood, Kevin Ezell, Jeana Floyd, Steve and Donna Gaines, J.D. Greear, Jeremiah Lepasana, Ronnie and Marci Parrott and Heiden Ratner.

Please join us on at noon CDT on Good Friday at sbc.net/pray or on Facebook Live @SBCEXECCOMM.

For too long, others have seen what we can do; now is the time for others to see what our God can do. The need has never been this great.

Now is the time to pray.

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