Author: Brandon Porter

Sexual Abuse Task Force provides update, says Guidepost is making ‘significant progress’

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Sexual Abuse Task Force investigating the potential mishandling of sexual abuse claims by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee gave an update on their website Nov. 11. The task force is partnering with Guidepost Solutions to conduct the third-party investigation.

According to the update, Guidepost has requested relevant documents from the SBC EC and has “received and reviewed relevant materials provided on a rolling basis.” Document requests and production will be ongoing throughout the investigation.

Guidepost also says they have “received and reviewed relevant documents and other information from independent sources, including survivors and witnesses,” and have conducted “numerous interviews survivors, witnesses, and current and former SBC EC members and staff,” since the contract between the task force and Guidepost was signed on October 5.

The group says they will not proactively reach out directly to abuse survivors in an attempt “to avoid re-traumatization.” Instead, they have established a website and email address for survivors contact them.

The task force says Guidepost has made significant process in the first six weeks of their investigation.

Messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting voted for an independent third-party investigation of the EC to take place and for the results to be reported 30 days prior to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim.

The 2022 SBC Annual Meeting is scheduled for June 14-15.

Southern Baptist chaplain promoted to Air Force Chief of Chaplains

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chaplain Brigadier General Randall (Randy) E. Kitchens received a promotion after the unanimous consent of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Oct. 28. Roughly one year after being named deputy chief of chaplains for the Air Force, Kitchens was confirmed to become the Air Force’s next chief of chaplains, achieving the rank of major general.

Kitchens and his wife, Sherri, expressed their sincere gratitude to Southern Baptists for their faithful support and prayers during his decades of ministry as an endorsed Southern Baptist military chaplain.

“Pray for the Lord to give me wisdom as I serve the religious needs of our Airmen, Guardians, and their families and for the Lord alone to be glorified in my new ministry responsibilities,” he said.

The promotion was commemorated during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Monday (Nov. 8). General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the second-highest-ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces, promoted Kitchens.

Hyten is a former commander of Kitchens and a longtime friend. During his remarks, Hyten commended Kitchens for his years of pastoral leadership and ministry to the members of the Air Force. Reflecting on the ceremony, Hyten described the promotion as a “miracle” of God.

Doug Carver, executive director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), was in attendance. Carver served in the same position for the U.S. Army for four years before retiring from the armed services in 2011.

“What a tremendous honor for Randy, his family and Southern Baptists for his selection as the senior pastor of the U.S. Air Force,” said Carver. “Randy is the epitome of a Christ-follower and servant leader.”

In his role, Kitchens will establish guidance and provide advice on religious and moral matters that affect Air and Space Force personnel. Kitchens is also responsible for establishing “effective programs to meet the religious needs of airmen, guardians and their dependents,” according to the job description on the U.S. Air Force website.

Kitchens will now lead the Department of the Air Force Chaplain Corps, which is made up of approximately 2,200 chaplains and religious affairs airmen who serve in both active duty and reserve roles. He will also continue serving as a member of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, providing insight to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on matters related to religion, ethics and quality-of-life.

Kitchens’ military service as an Air Force chaplain dates back to 1987 when he entered as a chaplain candidate, becoming a reserve chaplain in October of 1990 at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver. Three decades of service took him around the United States and the world as he provided spiritual and ethical guidance during his various assignments.

Kitchens was born and raised in Macon, Ga., and came to faith in Christ as a child. After growing up as the son of a bivocational pastor, Kitchens accepted a call into ministry himself. It was while serving at a church in Key West, Fla., that he began meeting military families and embracing the call to dedicate his life to ministering to members of the armed services full time.

He will continue serving at the U.S. Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon located in Arlington, Va. Kitchens and Sherri have two married children and three grandchildren.

Churches knock on more than 11,500 doors to share the Gospel

GADSDEN, Ala. (BP) – A recent evangelism initiative through the Etowah Baptist Association brought thousands of residents into direct contact with the Gospel, while spurring many church members toward witnessing as a lifestyle.

“One-fifth of Etowah County has no religious affiliation,” said Craig Carlisle, EBA director of missions. “Our churches knocked on over 11,500 doors during September and it led to a lot of gospel conversations. Pastors were encouraged by it.”

Carlisle introduced the idea, called Gospel to My Neighborhood, to pastors in the spring. Churches would be assigned according to their zip code with an ambitious goal of reaching 25,000 homes. It was promoted throughout the summer and preceded by an Aug. 29 rally featuring a message by Shane Pruitt, National Next Gen evangelism director for the North American Mission Board.

Carlisle will present Gospel to My Neighborhood to other associational missionaries from throughout the state at a meeting in January.

They may have fallen short of the goal regarding number of homes reached, said First Baptist Rainbow City pastor Dave Roberts, but some increases can’t be tabulated in numbers.

“This got us to go out and meet our neighbors – to knock on their door, introduce ourselves and invite them to come visit,” he said.

Roberts was retired when he preached in view of a call to become pastor at First Baptist on March 8, 2020. The following weekend, the one when many churches chose to temporarily halt in-person services due to COVID-19 concerns, First Baptist met to vote Roberts as their next pastor. Roberts himself was not in attendance that day, so his first sermon as the church’s pastor came through an iPhone in an empty sanctuary on March 22.

Twenty years ago, First Baptist had 400 members. That number had dropped greatly when Roberts arrived, so the first thing he addressed was the need for evangelism.

“That first week, I established a GROW team,” he said. “God Rewards Our Work when we’re faithful and we needed to get going. Our folks were hungry to get out and do something.”

Making inroads through the GROW team has helped bring 12 new members to the church, bringing that total to around 44.

Evangelism, he added, is about “doing what you can with what you have. Our GROW team may not lead 1,000 people to Jesus, but we’re going to establish a plan. We’re going to share the Gospel, plant seeds and let them know Jesus loves them.”

In September, those seeds were planted through doorway discussions and bags left on doorknobs, primarily at three apartment complexes near the church. Within 15 minutes on the first day that teams from First Baptist delivered bags including candy, bookmarks with Bible verses and a copy of the Gospel of John, a phone call came to the church.

“It was from the wife of a retired pastor who lived in one of the apartments,” Roberts said. “She said she hadn’t seen a church involved there for 10 years and wanted to thank ours for doing that.”

Matt Wethington, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Southside, was encouraged to hear Carlisle’s plan when it was first pitched to pastors earlier in the year.

“I was so excited when Craig told us about it, to see his passion and heart for this community to be reached with the Gospel. He had prayed through and thought through it and set a goal to knock on every door in our county. I was grateful for his vision and leadership on that,” he said.

Although Southside members had taken part in outreach efforts in the past, participation had lagged, he said. Gospel to My Neighborhood gave them something to rally around, with at least 50 adults and students meeting on most weekends (one was rained out) during September to knock on more than 600 doors, handing out gift bags with information and inviting others to church.

“Our folks got really excited about it,” Wethington said. “It created a lot of energy and unity on those Sunday afternoons.”

Roberts said visitors to a Sunday service haven’t materialized yet, but both churches reported good crowds for recent fall festivals. “However God decides to use us, we’re OK with it,” Roberts said. “We’re about kingdom growth, not [individual] church growth.”

Wethington said he has already witnessed a change at Southside Baptist among those who took part in the effort. Now comes the next step of how God is going to bless it.

“We’re prayerfully ready to reap some fruit from it,” he said. “But whatever God does, it was good for our people.”

Houston church experiences record 601 baptisms so far in 2021

HOUSTON, Texas (BP) – There was only one word to describe this past Sunday (Oct. 31) at Champion Forest Baptist Church as 112 people were baptized — special. The baptisms brought the church’s total for the year to a record 601.

Senior pastor Jarrett Stephens said some people were scheduled to be baptized this past Sunday, but he decided to make an open invitation for anyone who had never been baptized to come do so. This led to a total of 112 baptisms among the church’s three campuses.

Stephens began his time at Champion Forest this January and credits the intentionality of both his staff team and the congregation for carrying on the Great Commission legacy of their previous pastors.

“I am the church’s fourth pastor in their 51-year history, and there was an evangelistic zeal in the heart of the church when I got here,” Stephens said. “They’ve always been about missions about evangelism, that’s kind of the heart-beat of this church. It’s certainly in the DNA of our people.”

One of the ways Stephens said he wants to continue that is to provide a time for people to respond to the Gospel presentation at the end of each service and then to follow up right away with baptism.

Creating a culture that celebrates genuine life-change is something he hopes will sustain the spiritual growth of the church.

“We see in Acts when someone followed Jesus, in every case they followed in believer’s baptism immediately, and baptism is simply a way of identifying with Christ,” he said.

“The Bible says all of heaven rejoices, and so we want to rejoice at what heaven rejoices at. You replicate what you celebrate, so we to celebrate lives being changed by the Gospel.”

Stephens said it was the North American Mission Board’s “Who’s Your One?” evangelism emphasis that helped the church’s efforts during a year where people were still dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic.

“I love the initiative of Who’s Your One? and I think that’s been an incredible initiative for us, and it’s elevated the role of personal evangelism in the church and specifically praying for those who are lost,” Stephens said.

“I think the Lord was preparing this place for a harvest. I believe coming out of COVID, people were searching and people were hungry. … I think God is honoring the prayers of the people here at Champion Forest.”

Beyond the immediate first step of obedience in baptism, Stephens said another important emphasis for the church is discipleship.

He pointed to two examples — a man who was saved this week during one of the church’s services and is already meeting with him for discipleship, and another man who was saved this past May. Stephens discipled him and said it’s clear to loved ones and those around him that “he’s a different guy now.”

Although this past Sunday and the entire year were “special” for the church, Stephens concluded there is no special strategy they have been employing to see this number of baptisms.

He gave God all the glory for the year that has been at Champion Forest, saying all his team has done is try to be faithful and watch God do the work.

“I believe this is because Champion Forest people have prayed, and they’re inviting their friends and neighbors and the Gospel is doing its work,” Stephens said. “There’s nothing special in what we’re doing outside of preaching God’s word and calling for people to respond to it.

“When you see people baptized, it’s a reminder of the mission that Jesus gave us. The Great Commission is the greatest mission statement that all of us can rally around.”

2022 to be final T4G conference, founders say

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Together for the Gospel, a conference occurring every two years since its inception in 2006, will come together for the last time in 2022, organizers said today.

Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and Ligon Duncan, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, shared the news in a video posted to T4G.org.

When Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler shared how other commitments prevented him from being part of the 2022 conference, Dever and Ligon agreed that the next T4G would also be the last one. “This has been an ongoing discussion for many months,” an email announcement said. “Dr. Mohler called us a few weeks ago and said, ‘I love you brothers,’ but it’s time.’”

The theme for the conference will be “Last Word: Come Together One Last Time” and be held April 19-21 in Louisville.

Speakers joining Dever and Duncan include David Platt, H.B. Charles, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung and Alistair Begg. Early bird registration has been extended to Nov. 18. Those registrants will be mailed Piper’s book, Providence.

“I’m pretty pumped about this being the last one, and maybe this being the best one,” Dever said.

Attendees come from more than 25 denominations, all 50 states and 62 nations, according to the T4G website. For the 2022 meeting, all breakout sessions have been removed in order to provide room for an extended discussion on missions at the main stage as well as for participants to browse the bookstore.

New digital toolkit to help churches elevate prayer

NASHVILLE (BP) – In accordance with the SBC Executive Committee’s new prayer ministry assignment given by SBC messengers, a new technology toolkit devoted to elevating prayer through the convention has been launched today.

Titled, “Pastor’s Prayer Toolkit,” the new resource allows churches to be assigned a phone number where they will receive updates and things to pray for each day.

Once churches have been assigned a phone number, they have the option to invite church members to text the phone number to be added to the group to receive the updates and prayer requests. The toolkit also allows church members that join a specific group to offer updates and prayer requests of their own.

The Executive Committee’s emphasis on prayer ministry comes in response to messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting voting to a seventh ministry assignment to the EC calling for it to serve churches through elevating the ministry of prayer.

Specifically, the EC is tasked to, “Provide strategic leadership to lift up and promote coordinated prayer for spiritual awakening, ministry effectiveness, and the completion of the Great Commission.”

The EC partnered with and commissioned Gloo, a company focused on serving churches through technology, to create the digital resource.

Ronnie Floyd, Executive Committee president and CEO, said the toolkit will be extremely useful for churches wanting to increase an emphasis on prayer.

“The assignment given to us by the 2021 SBC messengers charges us to elevate the ministry of prayer in our churches, and this release today helps us do this for any pastor or church that wants the assistance,” Floyd said. “It is practical and helpful in every way.

“It is user-friendly, easy to understand in the way we have designed it, and overall, it will inspire people with tangible actions on how to elevate prayer in your church. I pastored churches for years, have led prayer gatherings for churches and for conventions with thousands in attendance. I understand what will move pastors and inspire them to elevate prayer in their church. This resource will help churches.”

Floyd added that the power of prayer is the key to unlocking a move of God throughout the convention.

“Living the Christian life and doing church in today’s world is impossible to do without the power of the Holy Spirit,” Floyd said. “Effective prayer occurs when we pray and when churches pray standing upon the authority of what God says in His Word and we talk to God about our need for Him and His power to be upon us. When churches pray, God moves His people to have a greater heart for Him and this leads to a greater spiritual power occurring in and through the churches.

“Churches need to be houses of prayer for the nations and be places where people really pray and talk to God individually and together.”

Steele Billings, Gloo vice president, said the toolkit will be a much needed practical resource to call church members to pray.

“The most practical way to call people to pray is through communication,” Billings said. “Text messaging is catalytic because it’s a very simple call to action. Text messages are the most effective and simple form of communication today, which is why it is really the perfect thing to be using to call people to pray. They can then be led by the Holy Spirit to feel the conviction to take the action they see in your message.”

He said the toolkit was created through Gloo’s text-messaging and communication tool named “Thryve,” and is a much more effective means of communication than email since 98 percent of all SMS text messages are opened.

Although the toolkit provides a variety of different resources and prayer strategies for churches, Billings said the resource is designed to be personalized for each church using the resource.

Once signed up with a phone number, churches can choose a template with which to get started, but can immediately begin editing and designing their own messaging plan according to their prayer needs.

Billings said he is passionate about trying to help churches teach their people to pray, because of his own personal experience growing up in church but struggling with prayer.

He said one of the goals of the toolkit is to provide churches with a digital resource that can help them join in prayer together, and also learn about how prayer positively influences their relationship with God.

Billings said Christians often say they don’t know how to pray. “They may feel inadequate many times because they don’t feel like they can do it correctly. Yet all throughout Scripture God tells us “speak to me, talk to me, cry out to me. … He invites us into a prayer relationship with Him regularly. This resource can help people gain heightened sense of awareness to the things God wants to join them in. We need to call our people to pray more, and the technology exists for us to be able to call our people to pray daily.”

Churches can sign up to use the toolkit by clicking “launch” at this link.

Sex abuse task force motions fail at Missouri, Mississippi state meetings, pass in California, Arkansas

BRANSON, Mo. (BP) – Motions to create state-level sex abuse task forces failed at the 2021 state Baptist annual meetings in Mississippi and Missouri this week, although a motion on handling sexual abuse was unanimously approved in Arkansas.

A comparable motion presented at the California Southern Baptist Convention meeting Wednesday (Oct. 27) was ruled out of order, and a move to overturn that ruling failed. But a shorter, more general motion passed after about an hourlong discussion, said Terry Barone, spokesperson for California Baptists.

The failed motions in Mississippi and Missouri, worded similarly, would have required the respective state convention presidents to appoint task forces “to examine the issue of sexual abuse for the purpose of developing and recommending a plan” to the respective state convention “to facilitate” the ministries of churches and entities in the state.

Neither state motion called for an independent investigation, but would have required the task force, as worded in the Missouri motion, to examine history to ascertain “whether there were any patterns of intimidation of victims or advocates or resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives.”

Scott Gordon, pastor of Claycomo Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., presented the motion during the Tuesday (Oct. 26) afternoon session of the Missouri Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at the Branson Convention Center in Branson. The motion failed by a vote of 500-266.

“It appears with what was brought from the microphone, there is a desire to wait and see what is going on on the national level (Southern Baptist Convention) regarding the task force motions that were there,” Gordon told Baptist Press. “My challenge with that is, that is to impact us on a national level as a convention, and I don’t think impacts us on a state level on our state conventions. … I think there was just a bit of confusion as to the intent of the motion in the bringing of the task force.

“It didn’t parallel,” Gordon said, “the motion that Grant Gaines (senior pastor of Bellaire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.) had brought in Nashville in June. It was far more a research, review and recommend type of motion.”

Nationally, an independent third-party review of the SBC Executive Committee is already underway by Guidepost Solutions. The investigation “into any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives” by the staff and members of the Executive Committee from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021, conforms to a motion passed by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.

Mike Leake, who supported the Missouri motion, said he believes other states might submit similar motions at upcoming 2021 annual meetings, and that he and others are prepared to approach the subject again in 2022 if needed.

“Hopefully, I think that there will be some measure taken by our own executive team. I think they’re going to look at some stuff. I wish for the sake of survivors that the messengers would have been the one that took that motion,” he said. “If necessary we will make a similar motion next year.”

Dennis Gard, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Eureka, opposed the Missouri motion because he believes it was premature and would replicate resources already available to churches, Gard told Baptist Press today.

“I’m always against any sort of sexual abuse and I definitely support anyone who has been a victim,” Gard said. “But at the same time, we at the state don’t need to necessarily take on any extra responsibilities that the national might do,” he said, referencing the Guidepost investigation.

Gard described sexual abuse as a local church issue, and said insurance companies and the SBC already offer resources that aid churches in preventing abuse and handling cases of abuse.

“The national level is going to come out with a lot of resources here over the next six months to a year, as they begin their investigation, that we can use here at the state level,” Gard said, “rather than having to recreate that ourselves.”

In Mississippi, state messengers defeated the motion 217-178 Tuesday afternoon, tweeted messenger Adam Wyatt, pastor of Corinth Baptist in Magee, Miss., and a member of the SBC Executive Committee. He said states should be proactive in helping churches respond to the issue of sex abuse.

“We do want to honor local church autonomy,” Wyatt said, “but we also would love for local churches to have a good place to go for best practices. … I do suspect that churches and associations and states will want to be a little bit more proactive, just because it’s such an important issue.”

Eric Sherwood, pastor of Gore Springs Baptist Church in Gore Springs, Miss., introduced the Mississippi motion that, as in Missouri, would have required the task force to “recommend avenues for education and a better understanding of this issue for the Convention and the churches and develop a plan with concrete action steps for more faithful ministry regarding sexual abuse prevention and survivor care in the Convention and Mississippi churches going forward.”

In Arkansas, messengers voted unanimously Tuesday to create a “sexual abuse task force to ensure the policies and procedures of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention are above reproach in handling sexual abuse allegations.”

No messengers who opposed the motions in Mississippi were available for comment to Baptist Press.

EC calls special meeting to address ‘legal, audit and personnel’ matters

NASHVILLE (BP) – The officers of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee have issued a call for a special meeting of the trustees for 10 am (CDT) on Thursday, Oct. 28. The meeting will be held in Executive Session, according to EC Chairman Rolland Slade.

Slade said the meeting will “update legal, audit and personnel matters”.

Thirteen trustees have resigned since the board voted to waive attorney-client privilege on Oct. 5 on matters related to the investigation of the Sexual Abuse Task Force appointed by SBC Pres. Ed Litton at the direction of messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.

The full number of trustees should be 86, according to EC Bylaws. The board currently stands at 72 as 13 members have resigned since the Sept. 20-21 trustee meeting:

Robyn Hari, Tennessee; Mark Elliott, Nebraska; Chad Garrison, Arizona; Melissa Golden, Alabama; Kim Grueser, Pennsylvania; Ron Hale, Tennessee; Paul Hicks, Alabama; Phyllis Ingraham, Alabama; Paul McPherson, Arkansas; Barbara Norris, Texas; Rob Showers, Virginia; Steve Swofford, Texas; and Chuck Williams, Tennessee. Modena Henson from North Carolina resigned before the Sept. 20 meeting because of a personal relocation.

Long-time legal counsel Guenther, Jordan and Price informed the board on Oct. 11 of their desire to withdraw as the EC’s legal counsel because of the trustee’s decision to waive privilege. The group had represented the EC since 1966.

The meeting also comes days before SBC EC President and CEO Ronnie Floyd and Executive Vice President Greg Addison are scheduled to leave their post on Oct. 31.

The special called meeting will not be live streamed because it will be an Executive Session.

Missouri church wins settlement in case over COVID restrictions

COVID

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. (BP) – Eighteen months after raising objections to restrictions related to COVID-19, Abundant Life Baptist Church reached a settlement Oct. 18 to the tune of $146,750 with the Jackson County, Mo., legislature.

Government leaders voted in favor of the settlement in exchange for the church dropping its lawsuit that claimed the county’s measures amounted to discrimination. Abundant Life, which sees weekly attendance in excess of 4,500 across three campuses, was placed in a group during the lockdown that restricted gatherings to no more than 10 people.

“Abundant Life always asked to be treated by the same rules as similar, secular activities,” attorney Jonathan Whitehead, who is also a member of the church, told Baptist Press. “Abundant Life complied with orders requiring everyone to stay home in March 2020. But Jackson County ‘reopened’ by calling big-box stores essential, while limiting any worship gathering to 10 people.

“At one point, it asked churches to get permission to meet. After trying to work with county officials, Abundant Life decided to ask a court to decide what the law required.”

The decision is the latest in a series of rulings favoring churches when it comes to COVID restrictions. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of churches and those wanting to attend religious services in New York as well as Colorado and New Jersey. In February, California leaders were told they couldn’t ban indoor church services. The Court followed that up in April, siding with Californians who wanted to worship unimpeded in their homes.

Jackson County legislators told the Kansas City Star that the 6-2 decision to settle came in light of the outcome to those earlier court cases. The county no longer restricts gatherings.

“I think that is a result of churches like Abundant Life standing up,” Whitehead said. “While churches support government efforts to improve public health, that burden can’t fall unfairly on religious worshippers, no matter their faith.”

In addition to Abundant Life dropping its lawsuit, the county also agreed that in the future, health restrictions “would be no more onerous on churches than secular gatherings.”

As churches experience the winning streak for the right to gather, Whitehead points to the ongoing debate over vaccines.

“Baptists have long called for government to accomplish what it needs, where it can, while minimizing burdens on religious conscience,” he said. “There will be many opportunities to stand up for that principle in the near future.

“Even though many Baptists are convinced the vaccine is safe and ethically acceptable, sincere religious objections should continue to be respected.”

32 conversions catalyze new work in ‘Nazareth of Europe’

Lamar Schubert* entered a house in the Moldovan countryside and found a grandmother who was exhausted from dealing with her unruly granddaughter. She was raising the teen alone and said she was a “handful.”

When the granddaughter came in, Schubert shared the Gospel with her. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Why have I never heard this?” The grandmother began to weep, and they wrapped their arms around each other and prayed to receive Jesus.

They asked for someone to come back and teach them more about following Christ.

Schubert, a missionary leader in Eastern Europe, said occasions like this were unheard of in Moldova – a tiny, land-locked country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. As one of Europe’s newest and poorest countries, it doesn’t demand a lot of attention. In fact, Schubert used to refer to the country as the “Nazareth of Europe,” thinking that nothing good would come from there. Boy, was he wrong, he confessed.

On his first trip to Moldova, Schubert helped train pastors in evangelism. During that training, he and other leaders modeled entering a new village and going door to door to share Christ. Schubert admits he wasn’t expecting much. He and his wife, Audrey*, have been church planters in Europe for 10 years, and they’ve learned how long it can take to see fruit.

“After so many years of doing this type of ministry in Europe, where you see maybe one out of 100 people respond to the message, my expectations were low,” Schubert said. “But, in spite of my lack of faith, God had prepared a harvest.”

In just two-and-a-half days of sharing, 32 people came to Christ.

“I didn’t take Jesus at His word. The field was ripe unto harvest and people were ready to hear and respond,” Schubert said, referring to John 4:35.

Schubert wasn’t the only one who was blown away. The pastor he was training, Mihai, wasn’t expecting such openness either. Eight people in one village repented and began following Jesus.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Mihai said. “I am not sure what I’m going to do with all of these people.”

Although that’s a good problem to have, it is a problem. For that reason, Lamar and Audrey will hold a second training this fall that focuses on discipleship, church formation, and helping Moldovan pastors develop skills for training their own people.

God prepares the workers for the harvest

The obvious movement of God in this tiny country sparked a desire in Schubert to see IMB workers on the ground help facilitate further training and discipleship.

Moldova has 2.8 million people and 622 Baptist churches, making it one of the most reached countries in Europe. But this trip led Schubert to believe that having an IMB worker there, even for just a short time, could help in mentoring and training pastors to lead the Indigenous work.

As only God could orchestrate, just one day after the trip, Schubert got a phone call from a former IMB colleague, now a pastor, who had a couple in his church that wanted to move to Europe to plant churches for a couple of years. He wanted to know if Schubert knew of any immediate needs.

A week later, another American couple called Schubert and said that God was moving them to go and live in Moldova for a couple of years to continue helping the church grow. Both families will be moving to Moldova to serve with IMB by March 2022.

COVID-19 conversions

All of this is happening during Europe’s prayer, fasting and bold Gospel-sharing emphasis this fall. IMB leaders believe God has been at work, and now is the time to reap a harvest.

“I’m convinced that COVID has changed the soil, changed the culture, and changed the context where we work,” Schubert said. “People are perhaps more ready to hear than we are to share.”

As an example, Schubert shared about one village where the opposition against the Baptist church is strong. The local pastor, Victor, had been beaten nearly to death by members of the Orthodox church – the Moldovan state church.

Schubert and Pastor Victor expected only hostile receptions, but they started knocking on doors anyway. Although the first two houses turned him away, the third one was a different story.

As Schubert spoke to the woman in the house about the hope that changed his life, she began weeping and said, “This is the only hope for me and my family, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Schubert said, “it is.”

Schubert is excited to see God work so evidently, and that gives him renewed anticipation of what God will do in the months to come. He asks for prayer as he and his colleagues step out in faith and expect the unexpected.

Please pray for Lamar and Audrey as they go to Moldova for the second training. Pray for many pastors to come and for them to catch a vision of reaching their country and beyond with the Gospel. Pray for the new believers in Moldova and for the pastors who will be discipling them. Pray for fertile soil. Pray for the two new couples who are preparing to move to Moldova in March.

*Names changed for security