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, August 3, 2021 - 5:09pm

GALLATIN, Tenn. (BP) – A week ago, Pastor Travis Fleming of First Baptist Gallatin thought all-digital worship services, recommended masking and strict social distancing were a thing of the past.

But after a July 25 baptism service, reports began to trickle in of members testing positive for COVID-19. By Thursday, when several positive cases had been reported at First Baptist, a team consisting of Fleming, deacons, lay leaders and medical professionals determined that an all-virtual worship service Aug. 1 would be the best course of action. The team had expected the case number to grow, and they were right, as the number ticked up throughout the following days.

This week’s Wednesday night (Aug. 4) activities have also been canceled. The church hosted a funeral service Tuesday (Aug. 2), though masks were required. This Sunday’s (Aug. 8) worship service will also be all-virtual, Fleming said.

“We wanted to have a 14-day stretch before getting back together in person,” he said. “When we come back together, we’re going to recommend masks, but not require them. We do not want to shut down again for an extended period of time, but we also didn’t want to ignore the [Delta variant] surge.”

In the meantime, ministry continues. If churches learned anything from a temporary shutdown, it was the importance of continued presence in the community and sharing the Gospel.

The ongoing surge in cases tied to the highly contagious Delta variant, accompanied by controversy over vaccinations, has severely dampened American’s optimism about emerging from COVID-19, which makes those decisions for churches no easier.

A “high percentage” of those at First Baptist have been vaccinated, Fleming said, so even out of the cases reported there were only a few hospitalizations. Pushback on decisions has been “very minimal,” he added, largely due to there being several voices involved in those discussions.

“My initial reaction to hearing about the cases was ‘Oh no, not again,’” he said. “But I knew we had to do what was best for the whole body of believers, not just a few.” The last time First Baptist held all-virtual services came in January, he added, as cases had spiked in the area.

In South Georgia, members at First Baptist Church in Waycross still enjoyed the deacon-sponsored Low Country boil on Back to Church Sunday Aug. 1, but with precautions. Disposable gloves were in use through the serving line and joined individually-plated deserts, pre-filled cups and available hand sanitizer. Masks were made available prior to church services, though not required. Hand sanitation and social distancing were encouraged, and those showing symptoms were encouraged to watch from home.

“We are grateful for the fellowship opportunities that are sorely needed and have been missing from our church life,” read an announcement posted to the church’s social media accounts on July 30. “We also want our members to know that we are maintaining diligence and awareness toward the safety of our gatherings. We encourage and invite each of you to do the same.”

That announcement came the same day the Georgia Department of Public Health said vaccinations were more urgent than ever as the Delta variant continues to spread throughout the state. Over the most recent 14-day period, the report said, hospitalizations had increased by 50 percent and deaths by 18 percent.

Fleming received the Moderna vaccine after consulting with his physician, whom he called “a strong Christian.” Mayberry and his wife are also vaccinated. Personally, both have benefitted from the vaccine but understand it is a point of disagreement among church members, with many holding varying opinions.

These discussions take place as schools prepare to start back and concerns rise about the Delta variant’s spread. Mayberry said that a report including the low vaccination rates and high case count of the surrounding area led to the precautions.

But First Baptist also wants to protect its fellowship from losing touch with one another. August was set to be the first full month of activities since COVID-19 arrived, kicked off by its Low Country boil. Though the event wasn’t cancelled, deacons added the precautions that will be repeated at a church-wide barbecue tomorrow night (Aug. 4).

“We’re trying to balance the tightrope between faith and risk management,” Mayberry said. “We want to do the best for our church and our folks. I’m thankful we have a team here willing to talk these things over so we can make the best decisions with the information that’s available.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 5:08pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – Evangelist and well-known speaker Wade Morris died Tuesday morning (Aug. 3) at age 51 after a battle with COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Morris, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, worked full time as a traveling evangelist, speaking at hundreds of youth events, conferences and camps each year, including many Southern Baptist-sponsored events such as Youth Evangelism Conferences and Oklahoma Baptists’ Falls Creek youth camp, where he spoke last month.

Morris’ last tweet, posted July 10, celebrated 457 professions of faith after a week of preaching at Falls Creek. Oklahoma senator and Southern Baptist James Lankford attended the event and can be seen photographed with Morris. Before entering politics, Lankford served as the director of Falls Creek.

Oklahoma Baptists released a statement Tuesday mourning the loss of Morris.

“We are heartbroken to learn of Wade Morris’ passing,” the statement said. “His speaking ministry in Oklahoma and across the country has forever impacted countless young people. Wade’s a faithful minister of the Gospel and a great friend to Oklahoma Baptists. We are praying for his family.”

Several well-known evangelicals expressed condolences to Morris’ family.

“Please pray for family & Friends of @WadeSpeaks who faithfully preached the Gospel and today stepped into God’s presence,” said Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton in a tweet Tuesday.

Speaker and author Clayton King called Morris “a dear friend” in a tweet, adding:

“Pray for his wife & children & the hundreds of thousands of people he reached & impacted through decades of preaching the gospel. He was one of a kind. Passionate. Generous. Faithful. Encouraging. I can’t believe it.”

In an interview with Baptist Press, Jason Britt, pastor of Bethlehem Church in Bethlehem, Ga., spoke highly of Morris’ faithfulness in ministry.

“He could draw a net like no other and was one of a kind,” said Britt, who served on the board of Wade Morris Ministries. “In a day and age when there aren’t as many evangelists, he was faithful to the end. What he preached on the stage, he lived off it.”

Chris Orr, executive pastor of worship and ministries at Beech Haven Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., told Baptist Press Morris was often called the “barefoot preacher” due to his habit of removing his shoes during a sermon because he considered the place where he stood to be holy ground.

“Last year I was watching my daughter while Wade spoke,” Orr said. “She was leaning in and hanging on every word. I thought, ‘This is a guy the Lord has truly honored and given the ability to communicate the Gospel.’”

Morris, an avid runner who completed nearly 20 marathons, had been battling the virus and resulting pneumonia in the hospital since mid-July. Baptist Press was unable to confirm whether he had received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This morning I grieved awhile after learning of Wade’s earthly death,” Orr said. “Now I’m thinking about how we can honor his legacy. We can keep going, moving forward. Wade was a runner and today he finished his race.”

Morris is survived by his wife Deborah and two daughters Eden and Trinity.

Scott Barkley, BP’s national correspondent, contributed to this report.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 5:05pm

WASHINGTON (BP) – The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission commended President Biden’s proposed filling of a vital executive branch post in the effort to protect people of faith around the world.

Biden announced July 30 the nomination of Rashad Hussain as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Hussain – director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council – will be the first Muslim to serve in the position since it was created in 1998 as part of the International Religious Freedom Act.

The action came as the ERLC and other religious freedom advocates are urging the U.S. House of Representatives to approve legislation to combat China’s genocidal campaign against Uyghur Muslims in the western part of the country. The U.S. Senate passed July 14 the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would prohibit products made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region from being introduced into the American market. The House passed a similar bill nearly unanimously last September before the measure died in the Senate.

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting adopted a resolution June 15 that condemned the Chinese Community Party’s treatment of the Uyghurs and called for the U.S. government to take “concrete actions” to end the genocide. The SBC reportedly became the first Christian denomination to denounce China’s campaign against the Uyghurs as genocide.

“One need only take a brief survey of the globe to see how religious freedom is under assault in multiple countries,” the ERLC’s Brent Leatherwood said in written comments. “We have long called for America to be a bold voice for liberty against these oppressive regimes. Taking steps such as passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act … helps us project that voice.

“Similarly, naming a U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom helps us to consistently use that voice,” said Leatherwood, the ERLC’s vice president of external affairs and chief of staff. “We appreciate the Biden administration prioritizing this appointment, and we stand ready to work with Mr. Hussain upon his confirmation to advance the fundamental human right of religious freedom internationally.”

The ambassador-at-large serves as the primary adviser to the secretary of state regarding global religious liberty and also advises the president. He supervises the State Department’s office of international religious freedom. If confirmed, Hussain will become the sixth person to fill the post since it was established 23 years ago. Sam Brownback, the previous ambassador-at-large, served during the last three years of the Trump administration.

Biden also nominated Deborah Lipstadt as the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. The Senate must confirm Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She also was the founding director of the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory. She would become the fifth special envoy since Congress established the anti-Semitism position in 2004. A law elevating the post to the level of an ambassador was enacted in January of this year.

In addition, the president appointed two members to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF): Khizr Khan, founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Project, and Sharon Kleinbaum, rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City.

USCIRF, a bipartisan, nine-member commission, and the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) applauded the nominations of Hussain and Lipstadt.

USCIRF’s commissioners “look forward to working closely with Rashad Hussain and Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, once confirmed, to develop new ways for the United States to promote the freedom of religion or belief around the world,” said Nadine Maenza, the commission’s chair, in a news release. “Global religious freedom violations continue to be a pervasive threat to our national security and global stability.”

The ambassador-at-large and special envoy “play an essential role in U.S. efforts to counter that threat,” she said.

Thomas Farr, RFI’s president, said his organization offered to the Biden administration in January its policy recommendations for global religious liberty, including the qualifications for a productive ambassador-at-large.

Hussain “admirably meets these standards,” Farr said in a written statement. “If America fails to defend the precious right of religious freedom – historically understood in our nation as the ‘first freedom’ – who else will defend it?”

During the Obama administration, Hussain served as special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and special envoy for strategic counterterrorism communications.

Khan, a Muslim, is a lawyer and author whose son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq and received the Bronze Star with valor.

Kleinbaum – who was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer to a previous USCIRF term – has led her congregation to “become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions,” according to the congregation’s website. In addition to her advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) rights, she is in a same-sex marriage to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, questioned on his podcast Tuesday (Aug. 3) whether Kleinbaum would protect religious freedom in a clash with LGBTQ rights.

“Given her well-documented activism and her position on these issues, it’s very unlikely that this rabbi would support religious liberty when it comes to something like the threat of the Equality Act inside the United States, much less around the world, where the United States under the State Department of the Biden administration is putting pressure on nations all over the world to adopt the basic understanding of the LGBTQ revolution,” Mohler said, according to a transcript of “The Briefing.”

The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act in February, but the Senate has yet to act on it. The bill is a far-reaching gay and transgender rights proposal that opponents warn would have calamitous effects on freedom of religion and conscience, as well as protections for women, girls and unborn children.

Khan and Kleinbaum replaced Trump appointees Gary Bauer and Johnnie Moore on USCIRF.

USCIRF, which is made up of nine commissioners selected by the president and congressional leaders, tracks the status of religious liberty worldwide and issues reports to Congress, the president and the State Department.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 3:42pm

When an individual from an unengaged, unreached people group comes to faith, many rejoice: the missionaries who’ve dedicated their lives to reaching the people group, the believers and churches in the United States who’ve spent time praying for and investing resources in the people, the national believers and churches who have been instrumental in gaining access to and reaching the people, and even the angels in heaven (Luke 15:10).

But, for the new believer – sometimes the first believer in an entire community – life can get complicated. In these situations, openly living out one’s faith may cost a believer their job, family, or community standing.

Boldly sharing the Gospel despite the risks is just what Ruth*, the first known believer from a people group of 50,000 in the mountains of Southeast Asia, has been doing.

A divine appointment in language school

Robert and Eileen Hawkins*, IMB workers in Southeast Asia, had been praying for Ruth’s people group since 2013. They’d contacted the leader of her village, Ruben*, and had visited and stayed in his home many times. They’d taken mission teams to the village to prayer walk.

Before they came, Ruben had never heard the name of Jesus.

A hundred yards from Ruben’s wooden hut lived a widow the workers had never met. She was Ruth’s mother.

By that time, Ruth had left her village to find work in the very city where the Hawkinses lived. Their IMB coworker, Charissa Taylor*, had started a language school there to teach the local language to foreigners. One of the first teachers she hired was Ruth, and Ruth’s first students were the Hawkinses.

Ruth’s interest in the Gospel had already been piqued earlier when she met a national believer who gave her biblical material. She had always been taught the worst about Christians, but the Hawkinses and Charissa were different than the Christians she’d been warned about.

“Her heart started to be drawn, and God’s Spirit started to work in her,” Robert said.

Charissa began speaking “truth and God’s Word into Ruth’s life,” and the Hawkinses began sharing Bible stories with her.

Charissa’s parents came to visit and help with the school in March of 2019.

“My mom did a training on evaluating learners, and at the end she asked to speak a blessing over the teachers,” Charissa said. “Ruth broke down and sobbed.”

Ruth explained that she felt stuck between two ways of life. When she described a dream she had about a bright light that helped people, the missionaries pointed her to Jesus.

While at dinner with two local believers, Ruth explained that the thing holding her back from giving her life to Christ was fear of family rejection.

“That night she decided to follow,” Charissa said. “The next morning she came to work and told me of her decision. It was such an encouraging time, as she slowly told the people she knew.”

Ruth became the first known baptized believer in her people group in the fall of 2019.

And despite the distrust her people have regarding Christianity – a distrust that is actively taught by their government – Ruth has been vocal about her faith.

She’s translating the Bible stories she’s studying into her own language.

When COVID-19 hit, she went home for a couple months. During that time, she became the first (and only) person to share the Gospel with her people in their heart language – a language that is exclusively oral.

“I mentioned to her the possibility of recording some Bible stories for her people,” Charissa said. “I figured she could work slowly on them one by one for us to use in the future. Instead, I was away for a little while and came back to learn she had recorded them all!

“The Father is working in and refining her heart. I pray He will use her greatly on behalf of her people.”

Ruth’s mother was more hesitant to accept the Gospel because she knew “the high cost of being the only one in her village to believe and live this way,” Robert said. Recently, though, Ruth’s mother also professed faith.

Ruth lives with her uncle in the city nine hours away. He has been resistant to the Gospel since Ruth first heard and shared the stories of Jesus. He is considering kicking her out because of her beliefs.

“I try to encourage people to put themselves in Ruth’s shoes,” Robert said.

“What would it be like to be a young lady in her mid-20s, who is [one of two] in her people group of 50,000 that speaks her language, that knows the Truth. How do you live faithfully and balance that pressure, that responsibility, that opportunity?”

How UUPGs are reached

An unengaged, unreached people group, according to, is a people group where there is “no church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice, under implementation.” A people group is unreached when evangelicals constitute less than 2 percent of the population.

There are 7,307 unreached people groups with 3,176 of them being unengaged. That’s a total of 4.6 billion people.

The IMB’s strategy for reaching these people groups and an IMB missonary’s task is entry, evangelism, discipleship, healthy church formation and leadership training.

This healthy church planting sometimes happens by identifying and mobilizing a national church and believers to reach their unreached neighbors. Other times it happens through creative strategies to gain access to the lost. The methods vary as the cultural context varies.

Whatever the method, the goal remains the same – evangelism and discipleship leading to organic church growth among those who previously have had no access to the Gospel. This is one way the IMB seeks to support the Revelation 7:9 vision.

  • Pray for the rest of Ruth’s family and Ruben to come to believe the truth.

  • Pray for believers like Ruth who are the only believers in their families, villages and, perhaps, people groups.

  • Pray the first believers in a UUPG or a UPG would wisely discern when to be vocal about their faith.

  • Pray these believers would be faithful to share the Gospel with their families.

  • Pray that the Gospel would spread in their villages so Christ’s name would be made known.

*Names changed for security

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 3:38pm

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) – Olympic gymnast Simone Biles set off a social media firestorm when she withdrew from the first week of Olympic competition, and apparently her withdrawal sparked a wildfire that’s torched Christian witnesses across America.

Biles is arguably the greatest Olympic gymnast in history. Her gold medal sweep at the Tokyo Olympics was all but assumed prior to the opening ceremony. But Biles did not complete a sweep. In fact, she didn’t even make it very far into the competition before she withdrew due to mental stress.

It is impossible to know what “mental stress” means in Biles’ context. And that’s the point. No one knows except for Biles and possibly a few close confidants with whom she shared information. However, our collective ignorance of the details hasn’t prevented countless individuals from assailing Biles. Unfortunately, even professing Christians have been spewing uninformed, demeaning, belittling, ungodly, mean-spirited and deeply uncompassionate comments through their social media channels. Every such post only torches their witness, leaving an ash heap in place of what may have once been credibility.

And we wonder why people are walking away from, or want nothing to do with, the church.

Biles’ situation is only the latest log to fuel what is perceived by many as a raging dumpster fire for Christians. It seems any issue rolled into the public forum these days – politics, racial issues, COVID-19, MLB All-Star game, the Olympics, the Southern Baptist Convention – becomes fodder for division while the world watches Christians engage in verbal knife fights. Reading comments about Biles posted recently by supposed disciples of Jesus leaves me shaking my head and has brought to mind the DC Talk (a group for which I’ll probably be criticized by some for quoting) song, “What Have We Become?”

In the song, the commentator asks:

What have we become?

A self-indulgent people.

What have we become?

Tell me where are the righteous ones?

What have we become?

In a world degenerating,

What have we become?

He then pleads:

What about love?

What about God?

What about holiness?

What about mercy, compassion and selflessness?

Seriously, it is truly worth asking, what have we become and what are we becoming? And what happened to the fruit of the Spirit?

While social media has the capacity to be used for good, I am increasingly convinced it is the tool that saved Wormwood’s fledgling demonic “ministry.” You remember Wormwood, the hapless nephew of Screwtape, the head demon in C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters.” Screwtape tells Wormwood that, “All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy (God), are to be encouraged.”

Has there been any “tool” in Wormwood’s toolbox over the past 15 years that has inflamed passions, escalated tension and pushed Christians further toward extreme division than the use of social media? People feel an unyielding determination to not only be right, but to convincingly bludgeon others who they perceive are wrong. We’re making Wormwood look like a genius. We often say things like, “Just because I don’t agree with you, doesn’t mean I don’t still love you.” However, we often then take to social media and hammer out self-righteous vitriol 280 characters at a time.

Christians, we’ve got to do better. A dying world is watching. What if we did pursue “extreme devotion” to God? What if we did use social media “for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12) rather than tearing it apart and others down? To get there we must start with self-examination and an honest examination of our own social media feeds. If your comments are the antithesis of the grace you supposedly claim, repent and work on your heart rather than your next post. As Jesus declared “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). He could just as easily have said, “for out of the abundance of the heart your social media speaks.”

A Christian witness can take years to cultivate then literally be destroyed through social media in a matter of seconds. The destruction is self-inflicted when it happens. Don’t be the cause of your own downfall. Before you hit return and skewer Simone Biles (or anyone else), ask yourself, “Do I really want to strike that match and torch my witness?”

Monday, August 2, 2021 - 5:20pm

BURLESON, Texas (BP) – Good news is here for fans of “Vindication,” the police procedural drama with a Christian twist produced by Retta Vision, the media ministry of Retta Baptist Church of Burleson.

The series will return to television for a second season on Sept. 1 as Pure Flix releases the first two episodes on its subscription streaming service, series creator and producer Jarod O’Flaherty said.

Following the Sept. 1 premiere, Pure Flix will release installments of the 10-episode season week by week.

The full second season should also be available for purchase around Labor Day on Amazon and other platforms, O’Flaherty said. Redeem TV will stream the series for its donating subscribers around that time as well.

The season 2 trailer was released on both the show’s and Pure Flix’s social and other media platforms July 30.

“It’s very rare that a faith-based series gets multiple seasons,” O’Flaherty said, adding that the drama’s success, along with that of “The Chosen,” which premiered its second season in April, may indicate that faith-based series are “picking up steam.”

“It’s a very unique time, and also special that Vindication, the product of a small Baptist church, has such a long reach.”

Actors reprising their season 1 roles include lead Todd Terry as Detective Gary Travis; Peggy Schott Becky, his wife; Emma Elle Roberts as the couple’s daughter Katie; and Venus Monique as Travis’ colleague Kris Tanner. New to the series for season 2 is T.C. Stallings, whose film credits include “War Room” and “Courageous.” Stallings portrays Detective Tre Millwood.

During filming earlier this year, the TEXAN caught up with Texas residents Terry and Schott, who offered their perspectives on the series and insights into what it means to be a Christian working in an industry which can challenge believers.

Q: How do you feel about reprising your role in “Vindication”?

Schott: Booking the role of Becky Travis was an answered prayer. Being able to return for season 2 with our wonderful crew and cast is truly a blessing.

I recently heard statistics of the percentage of practicing Christians in the U.S. and the world. The numbers are disheartening. There are many Christians who have a spouse, siblings, children or friends who have strayed from actively practicing their faith; it can be uncertain what we can do to bring them back. Jarod [series showrunner O’Flaherty] created Becky as prayerfully and patiently encouraging her husband toward faith without being pushy or judgmental. I have personally seen this work. I believe we all must carefully and continually plant God’s seeds and have faith that he will help those seeds to grow. I hope that Becky, who has her flaws, but has a heart for Christ, can be a good example to viewers.

Terry: Travis’ arc as a character is kind of a slow burn as far as coming to Christ. You see changes happening [during season 1] but not until the end does he become a believer. You see him changing as he comes to grips with some family issues. In season 2, he is a guy who still comes with his own set of problems and challenges. He works those out on an episodic basis. Other family members are introduced in the series, and it makes for some interesting drama. As you go along, developing a character is interesting, especially in a series like this [where] you learn more about your character with every episode. Going into a second season, I have a better handle on who Detective Travis is.

Q: What was it like to shoot during a pandemic?

Schott: Our first day back on set felt surreal. Emma Elle Roberts (Katie Travis) and I stood across the room from each other, smiling broadly behind our masks and wishing to give each other a huge hug. Since many of the cast and most of the crew worked together often in season 1, there was a close-knit atmosphere on set. Although we were now limited to air hugs and elbow bumps, that closeness still permeated.

Terry: Honestly, it made no difference to me. People wearing masks. It’s just becoming commonplace. I’m on a production in Oklahoma right now. Everybody just wears masks till you shoot. Then you take them off and you put them back on. The thing, not necessarily on Vindication but in general, is that we have to get tested constantly [for COVID-19], sometimes daily or every other day.

Q: What are your hopes for the series?

Schott: Audience! We want many, many people to see Vindication. I hope it will spark conversations on challenging, real-world problems, and that people will find the “God moments” within the show and in our lives.

Terry: Our production values have been increased this season. … I am hoping this will [enhance] people’s viewing pleasure. The story lines are great. I’m really loving what we have done … in the episodes. It’s a pleasure to work on a show where you do get time to develop a character.

Q: What does it mean to you, as a believer in Christ and an actor, to be involved in a project like Vindication?

Schott: I started film acting later in life. Being based in Austin and of my demographic, there are few opportunities, which can be very frustrating. About three years ago, in another bout of questioning my “career,” I prayed, asking God what else can I do? The answer was clear: “Quit.”

I immediately stopped listening. Why would God give me some talent and a drive and tell me to quit?

Then in Bible study, we were discussing what we ask for in our prayer – we know what we want, but God knows what we need. So I changed my prayer and listened – and the answer was “Quit … obsessing.”

I was spending so much time trying to figure out what I needed to do to move my career forward instead of trusting in the Lord to be my “manager.” Other than being prepared, I simply needed to be patient and wait for the Lord to guide me.

Shortly after that, I got a call from Jarod O’Flaherty about the series Vindication.

Terry: These kinds of quality opportunities don’t always come along. It’s a pleasure to work on something like this that’s edifying. It’s a procedural crime drama, but … you don’t have to worry about your kids seeing something inappropriate. … Sometimes in faith-based drama, [difficult subjects] are glossed over [but not in Vindication.]

For information on subscribing to Pure Flix, visit online.

Monday, August 2, 2021 - 5:16pm

NASHVILLE (BP) – GuideStone Financial Resources’ David Spika joined Baptist Press’ Jonathan Howe to discuss how GuideStone’s Christian values inform its investment practices, specifically GuideStone’s policy of shareholder advocacy. The two also discuss the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, U.S. fiscal policy and look toward the 2022 midterm elections.

Monday, August 2, 2021 - 4:52pm

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) – And when your children shall say, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say…. (Exodus 12:26)

Parents, you’d better be prepared. That day will come.

More than likely, the way children will ask this question will not be with upraised hand and respectful tone. They will sound more like: “Why do we have to do this? It’s so boring! I don’t get anything out of it!” The word griping comes to mind.

Anyone heard that from your little ones?

Count on it. They will ask that question, however they phrase it. You’d better be ready with an answer.

Teaching a child that God exists

I wonder if we even have to teach a child God exists. They almost seem to come into the world with that knowledge. It seems more that we have to work to unteach them. However, it is necessary to tell them about Jesus. No one comes into the world with a ready knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.

First, it’s a matter of establishing credibility. Does this require parents to jettison all imaginary characters and customs? To do away with Santa or the Easter Bunny? Some parents have answered yes. Personally, I’m not so quick to go there. After all, children have great imaginations and love to use them. The imaginary world of a child has room for all kinds of fantastic characters – from Winnie the Pooh and Piglet to Mickey and Minnie to Alice and Dorothy to Barney and Thomas the Tank Engine. The wonderful Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis are fantasies, written to entertain children while providing vehicles for the parents to teach them about Jesus. A child can enjoy imaginary people and fables, just so long as he knows these are pretend. And yes, he/she can handle knowing that.

After establishing a parent’s credibility, nothing convinces a child of the reality of God and Jesus Christ like seeing the parents living out their faith.

Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary tells how a child in his city learned an unforgettable lesson about God. The father in a family with four boys had resigned his good-paying job to enroll in seminary and become a minister. They soon found themselves in financial need. One night as the family gathered to pray, 7-year-old Kevin said, “I need a new shirt. Is it all right to ask Jesus to give me a shirt?” Mom assured him it was indeed, and they prayed for Kevin a shirt.

Each night after that, Kevin would say, “And don’t forget to ask the Lord to give me a new shirt.” Night after night, that request became a regular part of their prayers.

One day a man from their church phoned. “Mrs. Johnson,” he said, “as you know, I manage a men and boy’s clothing store. And we have some shirts here we’ve not been able to sell. And well, I know you have four boys and thought you might could use these shirts.”

She said, “Oh, yes, we certainly could. What size are they?”

He said, “Well, that’s the unusual part. They’re all size seven.”

That night as the family gathered for prayer, little Kevin said, “And Mom, don’t forget to pray for my shirt.” His mother smiled and said, “Well, Kevin, you will be happy to know that Jesus has answered your prayer.”

“He has?” he said, eyes bugging out.

His brothers were in on the plan, so with that, the first brother went out and came back with a shirt, which he lay on the kitchen table in front of Kevin. “Wow, this is great,” said the 7-year-old. Then another brother came in with a second shirt and laid it on top of the first one. “Two? I have two shirts? I just asked for one!” he said. And the third brother brought in another shirt. By now, the first brother was back with another shirt. Shirt followed shirt, which they kept piling on top of the first.

The stack in front of Kevin grew to be 12 shirts high. By now, he was crying, he was so happy. His mom and dad were also in tears.

Hendricks says, “Out in Dallas, Texas, there is a little boy who has no trouble whatever believing that there is a God and that He answers prayer.”

Before my children believe in God for themselves, the plan is for them to believe in the God of their fathers and mothers.

How’s that working out at your house?

Monday, August 2, 2021 - 4:00pm

ANKENY, Iowa (BP) – A plan approved July 8 by the executive board of the Baptist Convention of Iowa earmarks an additional $1 million beyond its regular budget over the next three years toward discipleship, church planting and missional efforts.

Called an “expanded vision plan,” it is set to begin Oct. 1 and build on a similar effort begun three years ago after the executive board’s fall meeting. BCI Executive Director-Treasurer Tim Lubinus said the plan aims to expand Iowa Baptists’ Gospel impact, and it stemmed from a money issue – having too much of it.

“It started to come together after a financial report,” said Lubinus, who has been in his role since March 2014. “Our executive board was not comfortable with the amount of funds we had. Currently we send 60 percent of our budget to the Cooperative Program, and this year we’re launching another initiative to give an additional 10 percent to strategic ministries in our state.”

Lubinus listed crisis pregnancy centers as an example of such a ministry and said recipients will be determined out of 10 categories and given $10,000 from the state convention toward their work.

Lubinus credited the excess in funds to a combination of the generosity of BCI churches as well as tight budgeting, sound investments and cutting expenses at the state level. Previously allocated funds were held back if there were concerns over a receiving ministry’s veracity.

“Even though amounts were designated, we didn’t spend them unless we felt really good about a ministry,” he said. “In the end we still gave a lot of money away, but all of our balances remained higher.”

In 2018, the first year of the initial plan, BCI messengers approved a 2019 budget of $1.6 million and then increased it to $1.7 million for 2020. At last year’s annual meeting, messengers approved a lowered budget of $1.53 million for 2021 that reflected COVID-19’s impact. At the same time, however, Iowa Baptists voted to increase the amount of Cooperative Program receipts forwarded from the state convention to the SBC Executive Committee by 10 percent.

Iowa’s commitment to CP, Lubinus said, is probably the reason about a half-dozen churches outside the state have chosen to partner with his state convention.

The recently adopted plan calls for Iowa Baptists to focus on three specific tasks:

  • Multiply disciples

  • Multiply churches

  • Multiply mission

Scholarships and reimbursements for pastors and church leaders seeking training opportunities will be provided, and the main goal is reaching and discipling the next generation. Summer youth programs will go toward developing high school students as well scholarships in worldview training for high school seniors. A retirement benefit of $20 per month through Guidestone Retirement will also benefit pastors.

The BCI’s church planting efforts will complement infrastructure already put in place by the North American Mission Board, Lubinus said.

“NAMB’s systems are so refined and their assessment, coaching and support systems so great that we don’t have a process specifically for that. The missing piece is getting more church planters into the pipeline, and we’re wanting to do that,” he said.

This will come through inviting BCI churches to become church planter “incubators.” The state convention will provide resources for qualifying churches toward creating full-time staff positions designed to train church planters. BCI will invest $200,000 over the next 36 months toward assessment and support for four Iowa church planters.

The plan’s missions emphasis will centralize around encouraging churches and leaders to participate in missions both locally and globally. In addition, increased funding will go toward the International Mission Board as well as other global agencies. Scholarships will also be provided for pastors going on short-term mission trips in order to increase churches’ awareness and involvement in missions.

The plan will also support international ministries that send near-cultural church planters.

“We are grateful that the IMB sends North Americans to nearly every country,” Lubinus said. “However, in addition we would like to come alongside of mission-minded churches from other countries and help them to develop cross-cultural training and sending entities so that they can reach their near-culture neighbors.”

Lubinus said that even though the expanded vision plan wasn’t built upon Vision 2025, the goals definitely line up. The idea of local church multiplication is a key function in both plans, he said, as is developing churches and new leaders along with reaching the next generation. International missions and cross-cultural relationships are also important.

“We’re aligned because we’re aligned with the goals of the SBC,” Lubinus said. “We’ve come to the same conclusions on these matters.”

Monday, August 2, 2021 - 2:18pm

PLANO (BP) – During a worship service Sunday (Aug. 1), Prestonwood Baptist Church gifted the International Mission Board $1 million toward the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The entire donation will go toward new mission work overseas.

Prestonwood Pastor Jack Graham presented IMB President Paul Chitwood a check, saying the gift comes from a surplus in the church’s giving during 2020, a year when many churches were struggling, and national giving trends were down.

“A part of the reason we’re here today is because Dr. Graham and the Prestonwood family want to be a part of a unique partnership to meet some unmet needs, to get into some places and ministry opportunities that we have not yet been able to get into,” Chitwood said.

Prestonwood’s gift and partnership with the IMB will fund efforts to reach “fast-growing Muslim regions with the Gospel,” Graham said on Twitter Sunday.

Chitwood, alongside John Brady, IMB’s vice president for global engagement, shared the four specific ministry initiatives the gift will fund:

  • Training local believers as missionaries to the Persian world

  • Developing local believers to take the Gospel to a Muslim group of 200 million in South Asia

  • Supporting 5 million Nigerian Baptists to reach surging Islamic growth in Africa

  • Training nurses in South and Southeast Asia to serve in hard-to-reach places

“The incredible generosity of Prestonwood Baptist Church is inspiring but not new,” Chitwood said. “God has not only used Pastor Jack Graham to grow one of the largest churches in the U.S., Prestonwood is also a church that, for many years, has been sacrificially committed to getting the Gospel to the nations.

“The church’s growing partnership with the IMB is a welcomed blessing in a time when the need for help and hope around the world has never been greater. I look forward to seeing how God will use their investment to not only get the gospel to the lost but also to inspire other churches and believers to join in the mission of the IMB.

“By working together, we’ll be able to see the Revelation 7:9 vision of heaven come to fulfillment, where every nation, tribe, people and language will be represented before God’s throne.”

Graham said Prestonwood’s members truly believe that more can be done together than individually. That belief is the driving factor behind the church’s steadfast giving and going through the Southern Baptist Convention and the IMB and its general support of the Cooperative Program.

“We could not be more appreciative of the opportunity to partner with IMB in supporting the global mission of Christ and the Church,” Graham said.

“As an SBC lifer and pastor, it gives me great joy to support the leadership of Dr. Paul Chitwood and team and our devoted missionaries around the world.

“The cooperative mission of our churches sets Southern Baptists apart and gives us the privilege of fulfilling the Great Commission together in our generation and in the generations to come. Our gift is just a small part of the faith collaboration of thousands of SBC churches for the glory of God and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”