Month: June 2021

Promise Keepers set to return to large-scale events next month in Dallas

NASHVILLE (BP) – In 2020, after more than 20 years, Promise Keepers prepared to return in a big way with a large-scale, in-person event at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. A speakers lineup led by Tony Evans indicated the group was headed back to the platform it enjoyed in the 1990s, when packed stadiums culminated in the 1997 Stand in the Gap event. There, the organization reported more than a million men in attendance on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

But like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans. Last year’s gathering became a virtual event that still drew 1.2 million participants in 84 countries, said Ken Harrison, who became Promise Keepers chairman and president in December 2017. Harrison said he expects the momentum from last year’s event to join an overall hunger to recommit to biblical manhood as Promise Keepers will host a gathering for men at AT&T Stadium on July 16-17.

Harrison told Baptist Press that the theme, “Stand Strong,” had been established in 2018.

“In 1 Corinthians 16 Paul encourages men to act like men,” he said. “We’re seeing attacks on a biblical worldview everywhere and we want to encourage men to stand strong for the sake of their families and communities.”

In both 2020 as well as this year, Promise Keepers organizers have had to work within an unexpected time crunch. Last year they only had 45 days to plan the virtual event, which was broadcast from a dinner theater in Nashville yet received positive attention and accolades, according to Harrison. Lingering uncertainties about restrictions related tothe pandemic this year kept the ticket allotment for next month’s gathering capped at 20,000 until mid-May. That number already included 6,500 ticketholders from 2020.

With restrictions eased, the 80,000-seating capacity of AT&T Stadium opens up the opportunity to meet the demand Harrison and others expect for such an event.

“A lot of tickets purchased last year were from those in foreign countries,” said Harrison, “so it was going to be – and will be – a large multicultural event. We have so much momentum and churches supporting us right now that it’s humbling.”

Nathan Lorick, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), joined others in inviting others to the gathering.

“We are believing that God is going to show up in an incredible way as thousands of men worship our Lord Jesus together and open up the word of God and learn how to be greater men of God, greater husbands and greater fathers together,” he said.

In another video endorsement, Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin and the current SBTC president, declared “Promise Keepers is back.”

Bowman appealed to men to take part in the “incredible music and worship, anointed speakers and the experience of being with thousands of other men who cry out, desire and long for a personal connection with God and be stronger as men in the 21st Century.”

“This event could be the catalyst for the revival that we are believing God for,” he added.

The stances taken by Promise Keepers have made it and Harrison a target for groups opposed to its message.

“USA Today posted a column condemning us. Magazines have lied about us, saying we’re bashing LGBTQ people,” Harrison said. “I’ve received death threats over social media and people asking where I live. But that goes with the territory now. We have to stand strong.”

He explained how strong men with biblical convictions ultimately benefit women and children. Harrison still hears testimonies of those who were impacted by the Promise Keepers events of the 1990s, not only of the men who attended but their wives and children who saw the effects at home.

“This is a celebration of men coming together to glorify Christ,” he said. “That’s a powerful visual. We don’t want this to be a one-time event, but to create a movement that leads to long-term discipleship.”

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. on July 16 with the sessions lasting until approximately 9:30. On July 17 doors will open at 7 a.m. with the conference slated to end at 2:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at

NAAF’s Frank Williams values ‘legacy of presence, influence and purpose’

NEW YORK (BP) — The faith of his mother Sophia and grandmother Elizabeth play prominently in the faith journey of New York Pastor Frank Williams, beginning in his childhood in small Dieppe Bay Town in St. Kitts, West Indies.

“From the time he was conceived, I prayed to God for him,” his mother Sophia Williams said. “I made a bargain with God. I said, ‘God if you give me a healthy baby I promise you, I will give him back to you.’”

A decade or so after they emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s, she formed a prayer group at Wake Eden Community Baptist Church in the Bronx, N.Y. – one of two congregations Williams now pastors – to pray solely for him, her only child. Elizabeth Glasford, his grandmother, gifted him with a blue monogrammed Bible at about the same time, sensing he still loved the Lord, even as he suffered a brief season of declining interest in church. Two months later he surrendered to God.

“It was where his heart was,” said Glasford, who is now 104 years old and living in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “It was leading towards the almighty God. And I wanted him to grow up a good young man.”

Frank Williams, now the senior pastor of both Wake Eden Community Baptist and Bronx Baptist Church, serves a group of more than 4,000 Black pastors as the new president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Among women his mother enlisted to pray for him in his youth is Pauline Heslop, a medical doctor and women’s minister at Bronx Baptist Church, who would become his mother-in-law. Williams married her daughter Tisha in 2006. He and Tisha are parents to Timothy, Tiffany and Trinity.

Williams was mentored by the late Samuel Simpson, a West Indian native who emigrated in the U.S. in the 1960s before founding the two congregations Williams now pastors. Simpson, who became known as the “Bishop of the Bronx,” is remembered in Southern Baptist life as a trailblazer in race relations who was also a leader in community outreach.

“He talked to me a lot about those experiences, the good and the bad, in terms of Southern Baptists, because when I joined the church, I didn’t know that it was Southern Baptist,” Williams said. “It was later, years later, that I would come to understand the history of Southern Baptists and that we were a part of this congregation with this history.”

He asked Simpson why he became Southern Baptist.

“He would talk to me about those years and some of the experiences he had, and how he navigated that,” Williams said. “Let me give you a specific example. He would intentionally show up to meetings and encourage other Black pastors to be intentional about filling up meetings and being a Black presence in the room.”

Simpson was among the top New York supporters of the Cooperative Program for funding Southern Baptist national and international work, and intentionally involved his church members in denominational activities.

In the 1970s and 1980s, “when he walked in with his church members, many white people got up and left because they wouldn’t want to pray with Blacks in the same room with them,” Williams said. “But there were plenty of others who didn’t – those who did greet them and did pray with them, and so forth.”

Simpson’s ministry of presence, Williams believes, helped mold him to lead NAAF at the current juncture of Southern Baptist life.

“It has helped me to understand that I am a part of a legacy of presence, influence and purpose within this denomination, that I’m not a Southern Baptist by chance,” Williams said. “There is a purpose for this, and God is using many churches to help His body, the body of Christ, to help within this denomination to grow out of the stigma of its racial past and the realities of the current racial bias that may still linger in some aspects of our denominational life.

“We are a part of the solution. That’s how I see that … those stories. And these are people who I still know who went through that.”

Williams referenced deacons who shared stories of purposefully seeking Southern Baptist churches while on family summer vacations in the South, and visiting them unannounced.

“And they would tell me that some churches would be warm and welcoming, but there were plenty of experiences over those years where ushers wouldn’t greet them, people wouldn’t say anything and they would feel unwelcome and ostracized, and they would know it’s because they’re Blacks,” Williams said. “They would be the only Black people in that congregation that Sunday morning.”

Marshal Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va., and NAAF’s immediate past president, commends Williams as his successor at NAAF.

“Frank will work well fulfilling the mission of NAAF as he works with SBC leadership and entity leaders,” Ausberry said. “Frank is a dedicated, positive force within the SBC who works cooperatively to reach the lost, plant churches and show the world that we love one another through Jesus Christ.”

Williams has exercised leadership within NAAF formerly as treasurer and vice president.

“Frank is very insightful in diagnosing issues and always sees things through a biblical prism as he makes decisions that best represent Christ and live out the Gospel,” Ausberry said.

Williams was ordained to the Gospel ministry at Bronx Baptist Church in 2002, and has held both of his current pastorates since 2013. He was interim pastor at Wake Eden from April 2011 until March 2013, and assistant pastor at Bronx Baptist from February 2002 until June 2013.

His Southern Baptist footprint includes 18 months as interim executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, two years as chairperson of the group’s executive board, and participation in association prayer and youth ministry initiatives. He has served three terms on the Executive Board of the Baptist Convention of New York.

Bronx Baptist and Wake Eden churches are active in ministry and missions including a Christian academy, a community enrichment center, food distributions, community housing development, economic development research for immigrants, prison ministry and nursing home outreaches.

Among church plants the two congregations have sponsored are Power Point Baptist Church and The Kenyan Fellowship in New Jersey, and A Better City Movement Church in the Bronx.

Williams serves New York as first vice president of the Clergy Coalition of the 47th Precinct, Inc. From 2005-2012 he was clergy liaison for the New York Police Department. The clergy coalition meets monthly with law enforcement to address community concerns, and has distributed more than $134,000 in scholarships to nearly 500 youth through the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Community Service Award.

Williams said clergy have a responsibility to serve the community.

“The pastors are the shepherds of the community, not just their congregation,” he often tells clergy coalition members. “Jesus was a part of the community life. He would attend community events. He would engage people on a community level. He would engage them in the synagogue. He would engage them at feasts. He would go to their homes.

“This is how Jesus did ministry. And so for me, ministry is not just in the synagogue, in the church building. It has to be at feasts. It has to be on the streets. It has to be in the life of the community.”

4 reasons we church hop, shop, or quit

Why is belonging to a church such a challenge? As Christians, we need to overcome at least four obstacles to live out the biblical vision of a gospel-centered, Spirit-filled community in the church.

Obstacle One: Sensationalism

Many Christians are stuck on the dramatic. We get excited about huge conferences, someone else’s pastor, or the latest controversy. Thrill-seekers simply don’t find life in a local church stimulating enough to really get involved and stay involved.

Caring for the elderly in a local church? Restoring a wayward member? Helping the single mom? Serving in childcare? These things don’t usually excite sensationalists. But while these acts may not be sensational in many people’s eyes, they would turn the world upside down if we began to live them out. What’s more, the endless search for something bigger, greater, and more extraordinary is in the end exhausting.

We need a renewal of Christians who are wholly committed to living out basic Christianity with their faith family.

Obstacle Two: Mysticism

When it comes to life in the Spirit, many think of mystical, miraculous, or private experiences. This is nothing new: Simeon the Stylite, the first of the “Desert Fathers,” constructed a short pillar in the Syrian desert sometime around AD 423 and lived there for six years out of his desire to live in communion with God.

But is that what it means to be spiritual? Being a desert hermit, away from people and worldly distractions, elevated off the ground? Not everyone can go live in the desert alone, and even if they could, that’s not the picture of discipleship in the context of community that we see in Scripture.

In contrast to the hermit’s approach, consider the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, where we see Jesus giving his evaluation of and instruction to seven churches, or “lampstands,” in modern-day Turkey. Jesus is described as “walk[ing] among the seven lampstands” (Rev. 2:1; see also 1:13).

Think about this: Christ is walking among the church! This is why I want my life intertwined with the church. This is why I refuse to give up on the church. Where is Jesus? He’s among his church. He’s up close and intimate with his church. He’s the Shepherd, the Head, the Vine, the Foundation, and the Husband.

To be best placed to experience Jesus in a deep, fresh, life-changing way, you don’t need a perch in the desert; you need a pew in a church.

Obstacle Three: Idealism

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book Life Together, he talks about the problem of having a “wish dream” when it comes to the church. Bonhoeffer explains how idealism is the enemy of true community: “He who loves his dream of community more than the community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial” (p 26).

Wish dreams destroy community. Some have wish dreams related to small group expectations, pastoral expectations, or program expectations. Real life together will involve highs, and it will involve lows; it will involve frustration, disappointment, and struggle. But by grace, we press on together as sinners redeemed by Jesus. This doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to make improvements in every area in the church (we do!). It means we rethink our expectations.

I often chuckle when wish dreamers say, “I wish the church could just get back to the way it was in the first century; those people had it all together.” I want to ask, “Have you read the New Testament? Have you read 1 Corinthians? How about the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5? It’s hard to get much earlier than that!”

Letter after letter in the New Testament addresses problems in the church! The seven letters to the churches in Revelation contain rebukes to five of the seven churches. Pattern our church after the New Testament? Yes. But let’s not pretend that churches in the first century were faultless. Let’s kill this wish dream and be quicker to identify evidences of grace in the church rather than function as a church critic.

Let’s celebrate when the church has biblical priorities and show grace when our church may not prefer our preferences.

Obstacle Four: Individualism

Many (often without realizing it) live isolated lives, especially in the West, never experiencing the satisfying joy of biblical community. We know so many people, but we go deep with very few (if any).

Technology won’t give us what our hearts long for either. Technology may strengthen relationships, but it can’t replace them. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us all this. After two weeks of video calls, I was sick of digital interaction. I thought about 2 John 12 during this dreadful experience: “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (my emphasis).

John says there are limits to pen and ink (or, for us, the computer/texting/video). Emails, texts, and calls are poor substitutes for embodied relationships. Something is clearly lacking without face-to-face interaction. A lack of real embodied relationships will lead to a loss of joy.

It’s a privilege to be in community with brothers and sisters. This has nothing to do with whether you are outgoing or shy, introverted or extroverted. It’s at the heart of being a Christian.

Bonhoeffer put it like this:

“It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing . . . The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer . . . The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God . . . It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren” (Life Together, pp. 18–19).

We need each other. This doesn’t mean we need to live together in a Christian commune. It doesn’t mean community is easy, or that it does not sometimes feel hard. It will never be perfect in this world, but it can still be experienced in a way that is wonderful. This doesn’t mean that all of our friends should be Christians (that can’t be the case if we want to be Christ’s witnesses). It simply means that we fix our minds on a vision of the Spirit-filled Christian life that essentially involves being in community, and we must be committed to pursuing that.

This is an extract from Love Your Church by Tony Merida. A free small group kit is available to help small groups read through the book together, discuss it, and apply the principles.

H.B. Charles Jr. releases 2nd solo album of original music

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — Years before H.B. Charles Jr. preached his first sermon, he sat at his mother’s side on the piano stool as a young boy at Mt. Sinai Metropolitan Church in Los Angeles, listening as his father expounded on the text.

Those early experiences instilled in Charles a love of scripture-based worship music in line with the expository preaching – for which he is more widely known as senior pastor and teacher of the 5,000-member Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

“I believe that good theology ought to lead to high doxology,” Charles said. “Truth and praise go together. … Colossians 3:16 says that songs, hymns and spiritual songs should be an extension of the Word in the life of the church. It is a way to help the Word dwell richly in the saints.

“Biblical worship is important not just for the pulpit, but also for the music.”

Charles released his second solo album June 11. “The Lord Bless You” is a CD of 11 original songs and melodies, the latest among many he has written over the past 10 years, often during his spiritual quiet times. His first solo album, “Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs,” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Top 10 in November 2018.

“I don’t consider myself in any way a great singer but I love to sing praise to God,” Charles said. “Most of the songs I’ve written over the last couple of years that are on this album, and the music, have been such a blessing to me personally and such a blessing to our church, that we just kind of felt a burden to share it, hoping that God would use it to be a blessing to others as well.”

Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Joe Pace, Shiloh’s current executive pastor, produced the project under the Shiloh Worship Label.

“For this last project, his current project, all the materials are all Pastor Charles,” Pace said. “I just didn’t want to get in the way of his material. And hopefully a good producer pulls the best out of the artist, and that was solely my job, to not get it the way and to make sure that we were able to lift the heart of what he was writing off of the pages so that it could be heard in the music.”

Charles believes the pastor has a responsibility to keep church worship centered on the Bible.

“I believe prayer, preaching and music … are all three central to pastoral work. The public ministry of the pastor should really be teaching the church to understand the scripture, to pray the scriptures and to sing the scriptures,” Charles said. “In that regard, I do think that the primary teaching pastor in a local church should be considered the worship leader. That even if you can’t sing, there needs to be oversight over the music to make sure that we’re not just singing things that sound good but are not consistent with the scriptures.”

Among songs on his latest project are selections he titled “Bless the Lord,” “Thank You For It All,” “Help My Unbelief,” “The Son of Man Came,” and a unique arrangement of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” featuring his daughter Natalie Marie Charles.

Charles and Pace created the Shiloh label to produce worship music that is not complex and is easily accessible and usable by churches of all skillsets. The first three releases on the label feature the Shiloh Church choir. Charles’ second solo album is the label’s fifth release.

“We had a heart for doing and producing music that was for the church,” Pace said. “There was a lot of great music out there, a lot of great Gospel out there. But we wanted to do Gospel-centered, Christlike music, Christlike lyrics, and so forth, for the church that the church could reproduce that fostered congregational singing. And we talked about it often and after listening to music, decided we needed to do it ourselves.”

The CD is available on various digital platforms. Shiloh will offer resources to help the church use the music in worship, including tracks, songbooks and lyric sheets.

Charles, a national bestselling author whose book “On Preaching” has been used as curriculum in seminaries, said his music has received a twofold response.

“First is a sense of shock and surprise from other pastors who know me by my pulpit ministry and don’t really know much about my music ministry at all,” he said. “And then, we’ve had a lot of encouraging feedback.”

Church and coffee plants grow side-by-side

In 1984, Goh’s family went from opium to coffee farmers, from sickness to health, from spirit and idol worship to worshiping the one true God.

The king of Thailand at that time, King Rama 9, required the opium farmers in Thailand to stop growing opium. In the mountains of Thailand an initiative was started to convert the forests from opium to coffee plantations.

Goh’s family was greatly impacted by this. They had been growing opium for decades. It was a way of life for them and their community. The opium was their livelihood as well as an important element in their tribal medicines and spirit worship. Goh’s grandfather was the leader of the spirit worship ceremonies as well as the community witch doctor. Their entire family worshiped spirits and idols.

Around this time, Goh’s brother became very sick. He was severely bloated and unable to walk. Medical doctors could not identify what was wrong with him, and Goh’s grandfather — as well as the spirits they worshiped — was unable to provide relief.

However, a local pastor claimed that Jesus could heal all of the diseases in the world. As a last resort, the family invited him over to pray for their son. He came, shared the gospel and prayed. Their son was healed. They turned from worshiping spirits to follow the only great One, Jesus Christ.

Goh and his wife, Oil, met when they were young and reconnected when Oil was in college and Goh was in seminary. Eventually, the pastor that led Goh’s family to Christ when he was a child — Oil’s father — became Goh’s father-in-law!

After Goh and Oil married, they started a coffee shop in Northern Thailand, about an hour and a half drive from the mountains where they grew up. However, their heart was still in their hometown. When they met Stephen at their coffee shop, they shared their heart to go back to their hometown and to use coffee to reach their community with the message of Jesus Christ. They prayed, and God spurred. With Stephen’s help, they returned to their hometown to plant a church.

Today, Goh and Oil run the family’s coffee business. Their desire is to use coffee as a tool to work and do ministry in their community.

Goh spends a lot of time working with the other coffee farmers in the community and sharing the gospel with them. Goh teaches them about the different coffee beans and new techniques to enhance their coffee farming abilities. They also purchase coffee beans from farmers at a higher price than what others will pay. This has created ministry opportunities to share Christ in the community.

In addition to growing coffee, they’re growing a church that serves the community and shares Christ through His Word and by meeting tangible needs. At first there weren’t many families, but now they have over 50 people attending the church. In the last year they’ve had almost 20 people accept Christ.

To learn more about how God is using coffee in Thailand to glorify Himself, visit

Pray for the people of Thailand, that they will come to know the one true God and be sent out to share Him with others.

Praise God that He is preparing good soil in Thailand, not just for coffee, but for the seeds of life to be planted and to produce a crop — a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown (Matthew 13:8).

David and Lark Washington* serve with the IMB among Southeast Asian peoples. (*Names changed for security)

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Should Southern Baptists defend religious liberty?

In January a preacher, known well to Southern Baptists, argued that we should not. He said, “Religious freedom is what sends people to hell. To say I support religious freedom is to say I support idolatry. It’s to say I support lies. I support hell. I support the kingdom of darkness.”

But that preacher is not our authority. The Bible is. And in a familiar passage, the Bible says:

I am the LORD your God.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.

It appears the Lord does not tolerate religious liberty. So then, should we?

Southern Baptists wrestle with this question. Some have opposed religious liberty for other faiths. We have argued over legal briefs, construction permits, and cemeteries—right here in Texas. Some Southern Baptists dismiss these questions as if the answer were obvious.

Andrew Walker does not dismiss them. In his new book, Liberty for All: Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age, Walker confronts them with biblical arguments.

Now, I am not talking about straightforward prooftexts. Instead, Walker builds a sophisticated case, grounded in biblical-theological themes—specifically, eschatology, anthropology, and missiology. I will tip my hand. You should read this book, especially if you do not like defending religious liberty for non-Christian faiths. Now, the book distills Walker’s doctoral dissertation, so it is understandably dense. Read slowly and reflectively, and it will reward you.

I can offer only the briefest summary of those biblical-theological themes. The eschatological theme examines limits to the authority of human government. “By giving judgment to Christ alone at the end of history, Christians can allow for wrong belief. This is not out of indifference but because Christianity believes that judging, ending, and redressing all wrong belief cannot be achieved fully either in the present era or by human hands” (77).

The anthropological theme affirms that all human beings are made in God’s image. So “all humans are made to know God. Everyone, however, must reach this destiny of their own accord with the freedom they possess as an image bearer” (141). Religious liberty creates space for humans to act as God designed—free moral agents, not sub-human droids.

In the missiological theme, Walker means to convince us that “a government that refuses to totalize its jurisdiction and works within its limited confines is acting justly…. [A] limited state is…a faithful steward of the authority that derives from God” (153).

To summarize, Christians should advocate for religious liberty because God designed human beings created in his image to respond without human compulsion. Government in this age ought to punish evil actions, but never an evil heart. Except for Israel under the Old Covenant, God has never authorized government to rule the conscience. Scripture affirms that the Old Covenant is obsolete. Only theocracies are authorized by God to compel worship. America is not that.

Notice, this is a limited government argument. Christians believe that God reigns over human government. Human government only possesses authority that God directly grants. Walker’s exegesis reveals that God has not given human government power to restrict religious worship—even when humans worship in ways God will one day judge.

Several years ago, a messenger at the SBC annual meeting asked a leader, “Do you actually believe that if Jesus Christ were here today that he would…stand up and say, ‘Well, let us protect the rights of those Baal worshipers to build temples to Baal.’” We have encouraging news: One day Jesus Christ will be here. He will level every temple to every false god, down to the last pebble. But we await that day. We have no right to claim authority that belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

You will not agree with every facet of Walker’s argument. This review does not allow space for detailed analysis. Nor does it allow us to hear from diverse Southern Baptist theologians and ethicists Walker cites to reinforce his case—Barrett Duke, Jonathan Leeman, Carl F.H. Henry, Daniel Heimbach, Evan Lenow, Al Mohler, Jason Duesing, and Paige Patterson. And this is different from the common-sense case we often hear: Christians should defend religious liberty for all, or we will inevitably lose our own. That is a fine argument. But Walker’s is bigger. It is more thorough. And it is more biblical.

Walker’s guidance to us springs from hope in the omnipotence of our glorious Lord. “For a Christian, religious liberty expresses confidence in the gospel. The gospel needs no accomplices. It is independent from artificial supports that would attempt to bolster its credibility. The gospel needs not the bejeweled trappings of salesmanship or a sword-drawn threat” (161). Let us give thanks for religious liberty, let us never trust in it, and under the Golden Rule let us grant to others what we desire for ourselves.

Nationals see divine intervention amidst persistent persecution

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series on global persecution, leading churches to pray for the persecuted church. Other articles on the persecuted church can be found at

During the height of their civil war, persecution was rampant and ruthless where IMB worker Edwin Hayes* serves.

While visiting a local pastor/church planter to see how he could help, Hayes heard the story of a pastor and his wife. He left humbled, wondering what he could possibly do to help a couple with such tested faith.

The husband had scars over his entire face and most of his body.

“I’d never seen an individual survive burns that bad,” Hayes said. “The amount of scar tissue was crazy.”

His wife had a scarred-over gash across half her face, and her left eye was missing.

Because of their scars, though, they both expressed that it was love at first sight.

The group in control of their war-torn country at the time was intolerant of Christianity or any opposing religion. When extremists found the husband walking down a road, they poured diesel on him and lit him on fire. They left him to die, but God had other plans.

The wife’s story is similar. Extremists found her on the road. Knowing she was a Christian, they told her to recant. She refused, and they slashed the left side of her face with a machete. Again, God’s plans for her life superseded her persecutors, and she survived.

Hayes explains that this overt type of persecution subsided after the war. But these people are far from free to openly practice Christianity. Now persecution comes from conservative religious community leaders and families. Persecution is so common, national believers have come to expect it.

Recently, a national church planter faced a hard choice. He’d moved to a community to work with believers there. He’d been in this area for three and a half years.

“Your daughter is old enough now. We’re going to rape her if you don’t leave,” local leaders promised. Hayes is sure that they would have followed through on that. The church planter relocated. The team is looking for someone within a bus ride away to continue the work there.

In a rural community, a young boy’s family found him convulsing and muttering cryptic speech. Then he began leaping, scaling walls and wailing. When the local “holy man” and other faith leaders arrived, he collapsed again, lifeless. After performing a ritual, the holy man declared the boy would be dead within three months.

A Christian couple approached his parents as they sat by the body of their son in the hospital. They asked if they and their pastor could pray for the boy. His parents welcomed the pastor out of desperation. He advised them to remove the idols and ritualistic items from their property. Then he prayed for the boy and his family.

When the family returned to the hospital after obeying the pastor’s orders, the boy had improved.

“They immediately called everyone to let them know. They eagerly wanted to meet with their Christian friends and the pastor again,” Hayes shared. “His family began attending church and learning more about God. They were immersed in a new sense of love, life and gratitude for God healing their son.”

This divine intervention was not acceptable to the holy man, though, who felt his authority had been undermined. Hayes isn’t sure what the leaders told the mother, but the family allowed them to perform another ritual on the boy days after he’d returned home healthy.

The boy passed away after obviously being poisoned. The leaders had fulfilled their own prophecy.

IMB workers and local believers haven’t given up on pushing back the darkness in that boy’s village.

“We can grit our teeth. We can be angry. We’ve cried. We’ve been disillusioned, but we still want to see [the local leaders] come to Christ. We want to see the whole place transformed. And we still think it’s possible,” Hayes shared.

Hayes is aware that this will only happen through the “strength and resolve” of the national believers in these hard places.

Although stories like this boy’s have no happy ending, others are reminders of the supernatural power of God to triumph over evil.

One woman who formerly led chants at her temple came to faith in Christ. She boldly shared her newfound faith with her family.

While walking down the road one day, she saw her brothers coming toward her with buckets. She knew they contained acid, and she knew what they intended to do.

Burying her face in her hands, she braced herself for the pain.

She heard the liquid slosh to the ground, and her brothers drop the buckets and run away screaming. She looked up and there was a circle of acid surrounding her, but she was unscathed.

Later, she confronted the one brother who would still talk to her and asked what happened.

“We threw acid at you,” he said. “But it parted and went around you.” That brother gave his life to the Lord soon after.

“There’s persecution but you see divine intervention at times inside of that,” Hayes shared. “In either case, God is going to be glorified. God is going to be doing work and amazing things in and through those people.”

For more resources on how to pray for the persecuted church, visit

Ways to pray for the church in this area:

Pray that believers will have boldness to share their faith at great personal risk.
Pray that those who are sharing their faith will have wisdom as they share.
Pray that the church in this area will have the strength to endure as the political climate turns more hostile to the gospel.

*Name changed for security

Myriah Snyder is senior writer/editor for the IMB.

The post Nationals see divine intervention amidst persistent persecution appeared first on IMB.

How can God’s people pursue compassion during the global refugee crisis?

Forced displacement is a global crisis that grows every year. In the face of these conditions, sympathy toward displaced people is often overshadowed by fear and concern about security, economics, and culture. As the global refugee crisis worsens, Christians need a perspective that considers Scripture and political realities and can be applied at the local church, national, and international levels.

In Refuge Reimagined, Mark R. Glanville and Luke Glanville present a compassionate approach to displaced people based on a biblical ethic of kinship. The authors apply the call of God’s people to compassion and kinship to the complexities of the global refugee crisis, challenging a fear-based ethic and casting a vision for a hopeful and generous way forward. Read below to discover more insights from the authors’ book about forced displacement and the church.

What led to your interest in studying and now sharing about biblical kinship and refugees?

We have been thinking and writing about local and national issues and global justice for refugees for some years. As we discussed refugee issues together a few years ago, we noticed that, on the one hand, Mark was finding that biblical arguments for the compassionate welcome of strangers were often met with the response: but you misunderstand politics. You have not grappled with the conceptual limits and large-scale practicalities of applying this to nations.

On the other hand, Luke found that political arguments offering for a more compassionate approach to refugees were often met with the response: but you misunderstand the Bible. The biblical call to welcome the stranger is not as straightforward as you think.

And so we thought it could be helpful to write a book that addresses each of these responses at once, drawing on our complementary interests and expertise in biblical, missional, and political theology (Mark) and history, political theory, and international relations (Luke).

Your approach to compassion for displaced people is centered on a biblical ethic of kinship. What is a biblical ethic of kinship?

In our book, Refuge Reimagined: Biblical Kinship in Global Politics, we highlight the biblical mandate for a thick form of kinship with the displaced, a kinship that embraces and enfolds vulnerable strangers into church communities and national communities, a deeply relational kinship.

A biblical ethic of kinship is unfolded throughout the biblical story. We see it, for example, in the so-called Golden Rule, Jesus’ command: “You shall love the Lord your God . . . and your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30; Matt. 22:37–39; cf. Luke 10:27). The “love” language found in the Gospels here derives from kinship language. “Love” means to enfold and protect another person as one would a family member. It means to live in solidarity with someone who needs it, as makeshift family.

Of course, Jesus didn’t invent this command. Rather, he interprets the Old Testament law as fulfilled in his own life and ministry, as he gathered a faithful remnant, an eschatological Israel. With these words, Jesus is echoing the Pentateuch’s teaching on those to whom kinship-love is due under the covenant. Kinship-love is due to God (Deut. 6:5), to one’s neighbor (that is, one’s kinsperson; see Lev. 19:18), and also to the stranger (the outsider who is to be enfolded as kin; see Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:18). These three kinship-loves are interdependent, expressing an organic covenant life that is emphatically oriented toward others and in particular toward the weakest among us.

What are some of the global conditions that may lead to an increase in the amount of displaced people in the coming decades?

The global number of forcibly displaced people has been increasing by millions each year for many years now, to the point that presently 80 million people find themselves displaced by persecution, violence, human rights violations, and events that seriously disturb social order. Many of these problems are becoming more drawn out and intractable: civil wars are lasting longer, displacement-generating natural and human-made events are occurring more regularly. And climate change already exacerbates these problems — and will likely continue to — as it amplifies food and water insecurity and contributes to triggering or prolonging armed conflicts in various parts of the world.

The refugee crisis is intertwined with many vast and complex issues. Where is a good place for people to start becoming informed if they feel overwhelmed by the subject?

The website of UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, offers insight into the vitality and resourcefulness of people on the move. It has up-to-date information on global conflicts that cause displacement as well as creative responses. For an orientation to engaging the topic thoughtfully, take a look at the film, “Borderstory,” produced by Erin Goheen Glanville (24 minutes).

How might you respond to those who believe that tackling the issue of refugees is too political or idealistic?

In response to the charge of being too political, we suggest that the mission of God surely includes within its scope not only the church but also the nation and indeed the world. Through Scripture, we discern God’s desire not only for Christ-followers but also for nations, and we thereby discern what the Spirit is longing to restore, and is busy restoring, in the world. Mission is the encounter with the world of a community gathered by Christ to be caught up in the Father’s reconciling purpose for all of Creation. We should strive, then, to seek to discern God’s reconciling purpose for the nation and the world concerning refugees and other displaced people.

In response to the charge of being too idealistic and the suggestion that we should argue for more “realistic” and incremental change, we acknowledge that there can be a time and a place for seeking to nudge reluctant communities and their leaders toward more compassionate rhetoric and more generous policies toward refugees; a time and a place for pursuing marginal gains in the direction of justice. But we take as the task of our book to examine God’s vision for how communities should engage with displaced outsiders and to explore how this vision might ideally shape the actions of church, national, and global communities today. Our book is idealistic in the sense that God’s desire for human society is so much more beautiful than the present reality. Only once we comprehend the ideal can we know what we ought to strive for by the power of the Spirit.

One of your chapters is titled “Relinquishing Fear, Nurturing Compassion, Institutionalizing Love.” What are some steps we can take to foster a more loving and compassionate, less fearful approach to the refugee crisis?

A first step is to cultivate tenderness (Mark 1:40-41). Some of us live close to refugees, and some of us don’t. Yet, all of us live nearby to struggling single parents, aging seniors, people who are lonely, mentally ill, addicted, anxious, hungry, or depressed. Indeed, are we not all broken in some of these ways?

Is Christ inviting you into a time of discernment around ways in which you might express the tenderness of Christ? For example, are you being called into your local school to assist children who need help in reading? Is your church being called to start a program to offer meaningful work for underemployed people in your neighborhood? Is Christ leading you to be a companion to lonely people in your church, lonely people like you? Are you being called to care for the creation, our common home? Our tenderness is a sign that the Spirit of Christ is moving among us (Phil 2:1).

A second step toward creative kinship is sharing life in diversity, as we explore in chapter five of our book. Both as households and as churches we need to remodel our kinship circles around the example of Christ. How can your worshiping community begin to reflect the diversity of your neighborhood? Do you need to sing in other languages? Do you need to prioritize those with little as you set your table, as Christ did? Do you need to contemplate a broader range of issues than your preaching and Bible studies tend to address?

A third step is learning with others. Perhaps some friends would join you in a book group, for example.

What can the church learn from our displaced brothers and sisters around the world?

Can we tell you a story from our book? Both of us are Australian, though Mark resides in Vancouver. Our book describes how people arriving by boat to seek asylum in Australia are mandatorily detained in facilities on Manus Island and Nauru. We speak about the injustice of this policy and the harm that it does to already vulnerable people.

Our friend, Ebony Birchall, is a gifted and compassionate Christian lawyer in Sydney, Australia, who uses her professional skills in solidarity with refugees. Birchall both serves these refugees and considers working with refugees to be a gift. For example, when she expressed compassion to one Christian refugee, the man said to her: “Don’t worry. I know that the Australian Government isn’t the most powerful thing in the world. I trust in God, and I know that this will end.”

Birchall was struck in that moment by the contrast between the many Australian Christians who support this policy and this man who is still pointing to God amidst the suffering of detention. She reflects: “There is a gift in knowing that life isn’t about buying a house and going on holidays. It is this work that gives me joy and fulfillment. This is the sort of thing that builds my character and my faith in God.”

The truth is, there are more Christians in the global south than in Western nations. Many Christians are coming to Western nations as refugees — the gospel is coming to us! A greater spiritual passion and vitality often characterize churches birthed by refugees.

How can the church best serve displaced people in their communities?

If you have this opportunity for a relationship with newcomers, engage humbly, anticipating that you will transform and enrich each other just like two friends would. Be curious as to how ‘helper’ dynamic might be flipped. Ideally, we were both giving and receiving. This is one step on the road toward friendship, which is something that all of us need to flourish. Here are three ideas:

1. Reach out to a refugee resettlement organization within your community, such as World Relief. The map of all resettlement orgs is found here.

2. Reach out to a pastor of a church in your community that worships in a language other than English, build a relationship and look for opportunities for fellowship and mutual encouragement

3. In the current context where many children are arriving alone, there’s a significant need for families willing to become licensed foster families.

Finally, we can always pray. Pray that God would draw refugees to himself through Jesus. Ask him to use you and your church to help meet their needs, both physical and spiritual. And pray that the Father would comfort, protect, and encourage refugees in the midst of circumstances that are often difficult.

Refuge Reimagined can be purchased here.

Desperation, need for hope seen as chaplains arrive at Surfside condo collapse

SURFSIDE, Fla. (BP) — A day after the 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo collapsed on itself, Pines Baptist Church Pastor Luis Acosta was as close to the smoldering rubble as authorities allowed.

Acosta said while at the site Friday (June 25), he sensed on the faces of the victims’ family members gathered nearby “desperation, the need for hope, the need to hear their loved ones are safe,” he told Baptist Press today (June 28). “I’ve been reading into their looks they’re probably wanting any word. It’s a search and rescue now, but sooner than later it’s going to be a recovery.

“Barring a miracle where the floors just fell in such a way that it created a vault where people can hold on until they’re rescued, barring that kind of a miracle … I am expecting the death toll to begin to rise.”

The tower in the small community just north of Miami Beach partially collapsed in the early hours Thursday (June 24).

Acosta led a small group of Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) Disaster Relief personnel to the site to help determine the best response. They’ve issued a call for 50 chaplains and the dispatch of a combination laundry-shower unit. Ten residents are confirmed dead and about 150 remain missing, the Associated Press reported today.

FBC Disaster Relief Director David Coggins was conducting regional DR training at Acosta’s church in Pembroke Pines when the tragedy occurred just 20 miles away. Three chaplains had already deployed to the collapse site today and at least three others were on their way, Coggins said.

“We’ve extended a call out to about 50 (chaplains), and we’re just waiting to see how they respond. That call didn’t go out until late Friday night,” Coggins told Baptist Press. “It will mainly be a ministry of presence. We’re going to station them with the laundry unit as well, and just have them to be there and connect with family members. [Authorities] are sending family members to certain hotels to gather information, and so we’re just going to have our chaplains walk through those places.”

Coggins spoke with victim advocates, emergency response leaders and others in determining ways to help.

“Our main objective is to provide comfort and support. We want the people, the families especially, to know that they’re cared for,” Coggins said. “We want to provide scriptural support for them when they get news about their loved ones, when that comes. And also if we have opportunities, we want to be able to support the search and rescue, and the first responders.”

Southern Baptist DR volunteers and personnel are not certified to conduct search and rescue at the site where five days later, firefighters, sniffer dogs and search experts continued to painstakingly dig for survivors and human remains.

“Miami-Dade has one of the premier search-and-rescue units in the country, literally in the world,” Coggins said. “But we want our presence there so that we can provide support.

“We’re also asking our chaplains to try to connect with the local Jewish community, because it’s a strong Jewish community,” he said. “The rabbis there have been holding some prayer gatherings. So we’re just going to ask our chaplains to connect with them and just show support for them, show solidarity with them and offer assistance … without intruding into their process.”

No Southern Baptist congregations are located in Surfside, according to the Annual Church Profile. Acosta has offered to help the FBC response efforts and hopes churches can work together in the region to help those impacted by the tragedy.

“We’re pretty far from the place, not so much in distance but just density. We’re an hour away,” he said. “Hopefully a month from now we can still do some ministry and provide the hope of the Gospel. And as we meet physical needs, share Christ. That’s our hope.”

SBTC seeks board and committee nominations

The Committee on Nominations is receiving nomination forms to fill upcoming vacancies on the SBTC Executive Board and committees. Nomination forms can be completed online or downloaded at The deadline to receive nomination forms is Aug. 1, 2021. Hardcopy nomination forms can be mailed to: SBTC: attn. Nominations, Box 1988, Grapevine, Texas, 76099.

The vacancies to be filled are as follows:

Executive Board – 11 vacancies (7 eligible for renomination).  Note: The composition of the Executive Board is based on certain considerations: 1) one-fourth of the membership must be laypersons, 2) one-fourth of the membership, at the time of election, must be a member of a church of 400 or less in membership, 3) at least five representatives from each quadrant of the state.

Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee – 3 vacancies; Credentials Committee – 1 vacancy; Committee on Order of Business – 2 vacancies.

The SBTC constitution and bylaws ( give more information about the work and make up of the Executive Board and the convention’s committees. 

The convention also recommends nominees to serve on the boards of our cooperating ministries. Criswell College Board – 2 vacancies; Jacksonville College – 1 vacancy; Texas Baptist Home for Children – 2 vacancies (2 eligible for renomination); Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation – 4 vacancies (2 eligible for renomination).