Author: Chris Enright

What’s your story?
Jeremy Bradshaw

Bradshaws in Kanab Utah

It was Friday afternoon, Sept. 18, 2020. Our church was still in recovery mode after Hurricane Laura and I had planned a meeting that night with some of the young leaders in our church to discuss post-COVID, post-hurricane church life and to set some disciple-making goals. This was a really important meeting for us.

So that afternoon, I decided to take my e-bike that I’d gotten over the summer out for a ride just to relax and clear my head. The last thing I remember is riding down an empty stretch of road in the back of our community and then … nothing. My next memory is waking up in a hospital ICU bed three days later.

I would later learn that I’d had an accident – what my doctors called a “high-impact incident.” Based on the timeline, they think I laid there unconscious on the side of the road for a half-hour before a high school kid driving home from school found me. In the ER, my wife tells me I was saying, “I’ve got to get home and get ready to preach” and “Who’s going to preach for me?” I don’t remember any of that.

I’d suffered a traumatic brain injury that left me with bleeding and swelling between my brain and my skull that required two craniotomies to repair. Because I also had acute respiratory failure, I had to be put on a ventilator. My left arm was shattered. I later had a series of debilitating seizures in which I lost feeling and use of the right side of my body because it was a left-brain injury. I was immobilized for weeks.

In the days that followed I had severe hallucinations due to the brain trauma and some of the effects of the medication I was on. Seizures, memory loss, panic attacks, anxiety, I went into deep depression at times – and not just during the hospital stay. September through December, those were very difficult months. I also suffered from confusion, blurred vision, intense headaches, weeks of sleeplessness. I think the first time I slept through the night for five or six hours straight was sometime around Christmas. Rehab was very productive, but it was a grueling process.

During my second hospital stay (due to some setbacks I was having), my neurosurgeon, Dr. Ian Angel, came to follow up with me. That’s when he really gave us the scope of how severe these injuries were and brought the gravity of the situation to us. In that conversation, he said there’s something called the “Golden Hour” where, after a traumatic brain injury, doctors only have about an hour to treat you, save your life and to mitigate against long-term disability. He said, “You were past that hour. You shouldn’t be here.” My wife and I were in tears, and I just said instinctively, “Dr. Angel, thank you for saving my life.” This I remember clearly – he looked at us and said, “No, I didn’t save you. God saved you.”

I took that as a mandate. I’m responsible to share how God preserved me through suffering and to tell others of the hope that I have – and that we all can have – in the midst of suffering because of the suffering of Jesus. That has stayed with me every week, and I’m thankful for that. My pain reminds me of my responsibility to use this for God’s glory.

My first Sunday back in the pulpit was Jan. 3, 2021. Preaching normally feels so natural. It’s just what God has called and equipped me to do. But on that day, I was scared to death. It felt like my first sermon all over again. I preached out of Psalm 23, which felt very appropriate, and about how I walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but it was just a shadow. I didn’t die and God was there with me.

God used that experience and the trauma that followed to really strengthen the faith of each member of my family. They had to care for me and they got to see God at work in providing for us. Short of Jesus, my wife is my hero. It’s amazing how God used her to care for me, to care for our kids. She had to keep things going because I wasn’t able to be much of a husband at the time.

On one hand I’d say God used this trauma to do a sanctifying work in our hearts and in our home, but also, God used this as a platform to minister to others. Through this God has opened doors for me to share the gospel, to counsel others. In the last year we’ve been able to grieve with those who are grieving and encourage those who are hurting in a way that maybe we didn’t fully appreciate before and with an added sensitivity. We’ve tried as much as possible to use this, even if just for a moment, to express our hope in Christ and how God’s provided.

Oh, and remember how I was going to meet with those young adults in our church to cast vision and talk about goals and disciple-making before my accident? They eventually had that meeting without me and started discipleship groups on their own. It was such a joy to see that God doesn’t need me to accomplish his work. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad that he wants me, but this is his church and he can raise up leaders and do what he wants. He’s got this covered.

So what’s my story? I’m a living example that God’s grace is sufficient for you and his power is made perfect in weakness.

Jeremy Bradshaw is pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City. Want to tell us your story? Fill out this form and we will contact you.

Texas school shooting ignites church community outreach

Students from Tate Springs Baptist Church praying

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) – Hours before a football player opened fire Wednesday (Oct. 7) at Timberview High School, a school coach who attends First Baptist Church of Mansfield led a Fellowship of Christian Athletes devotion on responding to fear.

The coach told First Mansfield Senior Pastor Spencer Plumlee that he never knew he would be “putting that devotional into practice so quickly.” The coach had been forced to shelter in place six hours at the school.

“He was really a presence of strength and I think ministry for those kids. But it was a really powerful moment that God had kind of set up for him as he’s ministering to students that are there,” Plumlee said today as the church prepares to minister to the community. “He was in the room for six hours, basically barricading the door, waiting for them to have the ‘all clear.’ It was a very, very tumultuous day … for him and for the students.”

Four people were injured in the shooting, including two gunshot victims and two who suffered undisclosed injuries. Two of the injured students were hospitalized, one with critical injuries, but no deaths have been reported. Suspected shooter Timothy George Simpkins, a member of the Timberview football team, surrendered to police without incident and is charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault with a gun.

At least one church family has already accepted the church’s offer to provide free counseling for community members closely impacted by the shooting.

“We’ve been able to offer paid counseling for our families and their students who’ve been affected by the shooting,” Plumlee said. “I had a conversation as recently as an hour ago with a family that’s going to take us up on that. We’ve developed a relationship with a local counselor here who’s had experience in trauma counseling. We’re doing that as needed at this point, but we’re open to expanding that as necessary.”

First Mansfield prayed for the community and school district at its Wednesday evening services.

 

Kyle Gladden from Tate Springs reads Scripture
Kyle Gladden, student minister at Tate Springs Baptist Church, reads Scripture with students and families during a prayer meeting Oct. 6. Gladden attended Timberview High School, where a shooting had taken place earlier that day.

“We also spent a lot of time last night talking the issue through with our student ministry,” he said. “Our student ministry did a very, very good job of just talking about the problem of evil and suffering and how God meets us in the midst of that, and uses what was meant for evil for good.”

Plumlee has mobilized church staff to check on families associated with the school, and is looking for ways to help the community survive this tumultuous time. The church had already planned to launch a new season of community outreaches in 2022 and 2023, including ministry to special needs children, first responders, nursing homes and pregnancy centers.

“The school district was also on our list,” Plumlee said. “This was a real kind of Holy Spirit nudge to keep going.”

Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington held a prayer service in response to the tragedy.

“It was an encouraging time to come together as the people of God,” Tate Springs Pastor Jared Wellman said. “We read through some psalms together and were reminded of God’s presence with us, even during difficult times. Several students were shaken, naturally, from the events of the day. Our plan is to be available to pray and counsel them as needed.”

Although located in Arlington, Timberview High School is a part of the Mansfield Independent School District serving about 35,500 students from several communities. Nearly 2,000 attend Timberview. The school canceled classes and afterschool activities today and has set up sites for counseling for students, school staff and families, according to the school website. Virtual counseling is also available.

NAMB trustees celebrate record Annie Offering, ministry growth in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — Trustees for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) had much to celebrate in their meetings that took place Oct. 4-5. Their time in Pittsburgh started with a vision tour that included visits with church planters and the city’s Send Relief Ministry Center. Then, Monday evening, the group gathered for a celebration dinner and heard the news that in 2021, Southern Baptists gave a record high amount to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®.

North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell shares news with NAMB trustees that the 2021 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions reached a record high. NAMB trustees met Oct. 4-5 in Pittsburgh for their regularly scheduled fall meetings. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

“The hard part about this year is we didn’t really know exactly what to expect,” Ezell told trustees, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and other unrest. “But thank goodness, Southern Baptists love their missionaries and give sacrificially, and that’s why it’s humbling and with a great sense of gratitude that we can share the total this year is $66.5 million.”

The 2021 offering represented an 8 percent gain over 2019’s record total of $61.6 million and a 22 percent increase from the $54.3 million Southern Baptist’s gave in 2010. The offering is spent in the year it is given and all of it goes to support missionaries and ministry on the field.

On their vision tour earlier in the day, trustees heard church planters share some of the challenges of ministry outside the Bible Belt. Recruiting church planters has been a challenge, with some lean years in the mid-2010’s. But in 2019 Rob Wilton came to the city to plant Vintage Church Pittsburgh and serve as NAMB’s Send City Missionary there. In the last three years, Pittsburgh’s church plant count has grown to 14 with a goal of having 25 plants by 2025.

“Of all our 32 Send Cities, Pittsburgh was the most challenging,” Ezell told trustees Monday night. “We couldn’t figure out why because it’s beautiful and has a great history. We had eight plants at one point and went down to four, and we needed a pastor to focus on this city.”

That pastor ended up being George Wright, who led Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., at the time. Wright joined Ezell to talk about planting efforts in Pittsburgh. Although it was established in 1907, Shandon had never planted a church out of its congregation.

During their Oct. 4-5 meeting in Pittsburgh, trustees with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) heard reports from church planting missionaries about ministry work in the city. Here, Pittsburgh city missionary Rob Wilton, who is planting Vintage Church Pittsburgh, shares with trustees. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

“There was a great culture of generosity and giving to the mission, but not a culture of going,” Wright said. “We heard there was a need in Pittsburgh and came up here and saw there was a tremendous opportunity. It changed our culture in a major way. We sent a whole group of people here to plant. That led to some incredible stories of God at work that Shandon didn’t really experience before.”

Wright has led vision tours in Pittsburgh with other pastors as he recruits additional churches to support the work in Pittsburgh. Eventually, 23 people came from Shandon to plant the church. After a strong launch, the plant soon faced a leadership crisis.

Ezell said having a strong sending church like Shandon made all the difference.

“What I so appreciate is that George and Shandon were all about planting a church, not planting a planter,” Ezell said. “They said, ‘We are all in with Pittsburgh, with or without the person who we thought was going to lead it.’”

Wright sees his involvement in Pittsburgh as practicing good stewardship.

At a dinner attended by North American Mission Board trustees, church planters and staff, George Wright, left, shares about his church’s involvement as a sending church in Pittsburgh: “We have to be involved in a city where it is a challenge,” Wright said, “because the Lord has entrusted us with a lot of great blessings, and they are not to stay with us.” Wright is senior pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. He formerly pastored Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., and led them to plant a church in Pittsburgh. Trustees for the North American Mission Board met Oct. 4-5 in Pittsburgh for their regularly scheduled fall meetings. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

“As a pastor who has received a lot of great blessings from pastoring in the South, I feel a sense of responsibility,” said Wright. “We have to be involved in a city where it is a challenge because the Lord has entrusted us with a lot of great blessings, and they are not to stay with us.”

Wright now serves as senior pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

Expanded Focus for Send Relief

At NAMB’s full board meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Tanya York, a member of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and chairperson of NAMB’s Send Relief committee, said Send Relief is expanding its Children and Families emphasis so it will now include ministry to protect human life and dignity from conception to death.

“This will start with crisis pregnancy and go all the way up through the aging and elderly,” York said.

Ezell said Send Relief will focus on the ministry side of protecting life while the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will continue to advocate on the political and policy side.

“We need to come alongside young ladies who are walking through that and minister to them,” Ezell said. “Shame on us if we just preach something and don’t actually put a hand out to meet a need and help change a life.”

Other highlights from the meeting included:

NAMB’s Chaplain Commission reported that Southern Baptist chaplains are seeing strong salvation numbers despite ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the end of 2021’s second quarter, chaplains reported 45,470 gospel presentations with 5,137 professions of faith and 854 baptisms.
Trustees unanimously approved a Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget of $122.8 million. The budget reflects a return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Two trustees who are leaving the board because of location changes were recognized for their years of service. Jon Anderson, who served from the Maryland-Delaware Baptist Convention, has relocated to Maine. Randy Bradley, who served from South Carolina, is retiring as an associational mission strategist and deploying to the mission field with the International Mission Board in early 2022. Ezell thanked both men for their years of leadership on the board.

Ezell closed the meeting with a call to stay focused on NAMB’s ultimate mission.

“We need to go back up to 30,000 feet and remind ourselves that it’s all about planting churches everywhere for everyone, whether it is in an urban area or a rural area,” Ezell told trustees. “It’s about meeting needs and changing lives everywhere through Send Relief. And ultimately, it’s all about the gospel. I don’t want to ever take for granted the opportunities we have that God gives us. What an incredible opportunity that God lets us do this.”

Floyd resigns as leader of SBC Executive Committee

NASHVILLE (BP) – Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, announced his resignation Thursday night (Oct. 14) in a letter to Southern Baptists released by email.

Floyd pointed to the decisions made by trustees in a special called meeting on October 5 as the basis for his decision. “The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters,” said Floyd.

Citing his fiduciary responsibilities as president and CEO, Floyd said, “Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC.

“In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make,” he said.

Rolland Slade, chairman of the SBC EC, reacted to Floyd’s resignation, “I am saddened by his resignation. He’s had a tremendous ministry for years and years. I know he loves Southern Baptists. I know it was his intention to come to Nashville to serve Southern Baptists well and I believe he’s fulfilled that to the best of his ability. However, I understand the vote of the committee put him in a very difficult position.”

On Oct. 5, EC trustees voted to waive attorney client privilege related to the independent third-party investigation of the possible mishandling of sex abuse cases. Messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting mandated the investigation with the terms and scope of the investigation.

On Sept. 21, trustees allocated up to $1.6 million in Cooperative Program funds to pay for the investigation. Trustees also voted to engage in the contract with Guidepost Solutions, a New York based investigative firm, to handle the independent investigation.

Messengers tasked SBC President Ed Litton with forming a Sexual Abuse Task Force to oversee the investigation.

The SBC EC’s longtime legal counsel, Guenther, Jordan and Price, withdrew from representing the board on Oct. 11.

In a letter sent to Floyd, the firm wrote, “Until now, a decision by the Board to waive attorney-client privilege was not reasonably foreseeable. However, going forward we can no longer assure Executive Committee and Convention personnel with whom we work that the privacy of their communications with their lawyers will be secure.”

SBC President Ed Litton said, “The issues before the Executive Committee were indeed complex, and it remains true that good people came to different conclusions about the various issues set before them. While I was grateful for the outcome of last week’s Executive Committee meeting, I regret that Dr. Floyd and other trustees feel that this has placed them in a position where they can no longer continue to serve in their current capacities.”

Floyd began his tenure as president in May 2019, just months after a report was published by the Houston Chronicle on sexual abuse in the SBC. He worked with EC chairman Mike Stone and SBC president on the creation and implementation of a repurposed Credentials Committee for the Convention to provide an avenue for the Convention to disfellowship churches who poorly handle sex abuse, exhibit racism, and hold to doctrine that does not align with the Convention’s confession of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, or violate its governing documents.

During his tenure as EC president, Floyd navigated several crises including the cancellation of the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a time of racial unrest in America following the murder of George Floyd. Now his departure after less than 30 months at the helm means the Executive Committee will now look to fill its presidency for the second time in three years—something foreign to an organization which has had only seven men fill that role in its 104-year history.

Prior to coming to the EC, Floyd pastored several churches across Texas until he moved to First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark. (now Cross Church), in 1986 where he pastored for more than 32 years before his stint at the Executive Committee. Throughout his career, Floyd has been active in Southern Baptist life and other interdenominational ministries including serving as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and two terms as SBC president (2014-2016).

“I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people,” said Floyd.

In the letter, Floyd conveyed deep confidence in the staff of the Executive Committee, “Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about ‘the system.” Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Floyd said he would remain in the leadership role until October 31. An interim president of the SBC Executive Committee has not yet been named.

“Through the end of this month, I will ensure our team is ready to complete the matters that will accomplish the will of this Convention,” said Floyd.

“I urge all Southern Baptists to pray for Dr. Floyd and his precious wife, Jeana, as they enter their next phase of life and ministry,” Litton said.

According to the SBC EC bylaws, a seven-member search committee will be formed to begin the search for a new president. Six of the members will be the existing trustees who receive the highest number of votes to serve on the committee. The seventh member will be chairperson of the board who will act as an ex-officio member.

“We are not going to rush into anything. Going forward we have to make sure we’re fulfilling the bylaws. It’s going to be difficult because we’ve lost our general counsel who we would typically turn to for guidance,” said Slade.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER FROM RONNIE FLOYD

Dear SBC Executive Committee Trustees and SBC Family,

I was planning to release this letter on Monday, October 11; however, I delayed the publishing of this letter until today, due to the death of my mother-in-law on Sunday and then the funeral which took place on Wednesday afternoon in Bridgeport Texas, October 13.

After serving as the senior pastor of the same church for over thirty-two years, I came here twenty-eight months ago in good faith because I believed in what we do together to advance the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. It was this personal and pastoral commitment to the Great Commission vision that moved me to lead my church to invest heavily in the Cooperative Program and the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 90:12 these words, “Teach us to number our days carefully so we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” We are told these words because each of our days are limited and we must determine how we believe God wants us to use them for His glory.

While Jeana and I have no idea where we are going and what we will do in the future, today I submit my resignation as the President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. I will serve through Sunday, October 31, 2021.

In the midst of multiple challenges facing the SBC, I was asked to come here because of my proven personal integrity, reputation, and leadership. What was desired to be leveraged for the advancement of the Gospel by those who called me here, I will not jeopardize any longer because of serving in this role.

As President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, I have fiduciary duties. The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters. Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC. In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make.

Our SBC Executive Committee has had an unwavering commitment to doing this needed review. Our commitment has always been to fulfill the desires of the messengers, but the deliberations were about
“how to do this” in the most effective way. There was a way it could have been done that fulfilled these desires without creating these potential risks relating to the Convention’s liability. Sadly, even some of our laypeople who are serving as our trustees had to submit their resignation because their profession will not permit them to serve any longer due to these risks that now exist. Others will have to do the same also. This is unacceptable and should concern every Baptist layperson. The SBC entities need more laypersons, not less, who bring their professional expertise in law, finance, and other disciplines to us.

I was a pastor for over forty years. My entire life has been devoted to serving Christ and His people. The thought of any sexual abuse done to anyone abhors me. As a husband, father, and grandfather of seven, I deeply care about the protection of all people. Every Executive Committee staff member who is serving with me, along with trustees that I know, has been united in our desire to care for people while at the same time doing what we have been asked to do by the Convention. One of the most grievous things for me personally has been the attacks on myself and the trustees as if we are people who only care about “the system.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Through the end of this month, I will ensure our team is ready to complete the matters that will accomplish the will of this Convention. I will also continue to carry out my ongoing responsibilities.

We love Southern Baptists and will continue to love you and the mission we do together. As the Treasurer of the SBC, it is a privilege to announce to you this week, that over $702.6 million dollars have been given this past fiscal year through our Total Cooperative Program Giving, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. This generosity has occurred over these past twelve months as we have each navigated through this global pandemic.

As I walk away from these responsibilities that I have cherished and still cherish today, I know we have been faithful to champion the work we do together in the Great Commission and through the Cooperative Program. We have also led our Convention to adopt Vision 2025, a unified Great Commission vision. We have also led our team to prepare and serve the largest SBC Annual Meeting in decades. Furthermore, we have led our Convention to amend our SBC Constitution declaring that churches will no longer be in friendly cooperation with us who are acting in a manner inconsistent with the Convention’s beliefs regarding sexual abuse and even others who may be acting to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity. These actions will endure the test of time because they are now in the governing documents of our Convention. We have led our Convention to grant to our SBC Executive Committee the national ministry assignment to elevate the ministry of prayer in our churches. This is desperately needed, and it was my desire to do it in the highest manner.

To our staff team and trustees, as well as all of our partners in the Great Commission, we love you and thank you for this high honor to have served you. To all of the pastors and to all of the churches, and the missionaries across the globe, I have been faithful to your causes daily and have always had you in my heart as I weighed the heavy decisions that came across my desk.

May God and His favor continue to rest on all of our Great Commission work together.

Ronnie W. Floyd

Annie Offering tops $66 million for new record high

PITTSBURGH – After a pandemic-influenced decline in 2020, Southern Baptists rallied to give $66.5 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® (AAEO) in 2021, the highest amount ever given to the offering that supports missions in North America. North American Mission Board (NAMB) president, Kevin Ezell, announced the total during the entity’s fall trustee meeting in Pittsburgh.

“The hard part about this year is we didn’t really know exactly what to expect,” Ezell said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and other unrest. “But thank goodness, Southern Baptists love their missionaries and give sacrificially and that’s why, it’s humbling and with a great sense of gratitude that we can share the total this year is $66.5 million.”

Ezell said that since 2010, the offering has increased 22 percent.

“There are a lot of things Southern Baptist have in common,” Ezell said. “A steadfast love for Christ, a commitment to the Great Commission and Southern Baptists love their missionaries.”

Southern Baptist giving to the offering set records for three consecutive years in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before pandemic shutdowns occurred in 2020 during the season when churches typically collect the AAEO, which supports NAMB missionaries who plant gospel-proclaiming churches and provide gospel-focused compassion ministry across North America.

“I continue to be encouraged and amazed at the undying enthusiasm and support Southern Baptists display for their missionaries and their mission entities,” said Eric Thomas, chairman of NAMB’s Board of Trustees and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Norfolk, Va., in comments before the meeting. “Thousands of churches joining arms together like this will change peoples’ lives for generations to come.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), announced Monday evening, October 4, that the 2021 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions surpassed all previous giving records. The offering, all of which goes to support mission work on the field, totaled $66.5 million. Ezell shared the news at a dinner with NAMB trustees during their meeting in Pittsburgh. Photo by Alexandra Toy.

The 2021 offering pushed the cumulative sum of gifts given to the AAEO passed the $2 billion mark since the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) organized the first collection for the Home Mission Board (the predecessor to NAMB) in 1895. The offering is named for Annie Armstrong, a woman who encouraged the expansion of missions efforts and mobilized Southern Baptists to support missionaries.

“Woman’s Missionary Union was led for many years by Annie Armstrong. She exemplified passionate and prayerful support of missions,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of the national WMU, in written comments.

To this day, WMU continues to be a key partner in promoting the offering and encouraging churches to give. Together, they carry on Armstrong’s legacy of engaging churches in local mission work.

“God placed the idea for a home missions offering on Annie’s heart. She tirelessly championed Baptist home mission causes,” Wisdom-Martin said. “In grateful appreciation of this heritage, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to Southern Baptists for advancing His Kingdom through their intercession and sacrificial gifts to His Great Commission.”

Gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® provide support for thousands of missionaries who plant churches in unreached communities and meet needs through compassion ministry. More than 50 percent of NAMB’s budget comes from the AAEO, and every dollar goes directly to the mission field during the year those gifts are collected to support Southern Baptist missionaries.

Litton hosts ‘Shrink the Divide’ racial reconciliation event

MOBILE, Ala. (BP) – Attendees at the Shrink the Divide racial reconciliation gathering at Redemption Church in Mobile, Ala., Sunday night (Oct. 3) took their seats, perhaps beside those who appeared most familiar. Then they were asked to change.

“The leadership told everybody to move next to someone who doesn’t look like them,” host pastor Ed Litton, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press Monday (Oct. 4). “It was natural. If there was awkwardness, and there usually is, that dissipated rapidly. People really enjoyed being together last night.”

Litton was one of two keynote speakers at the fourth annual event sponsored by the Pledge Group, a seven-year-old Christian multidenominational and multiracial group of Mobile-area pastors committed to working for racial reconciliation in Mobile.

Speaking to the diverse audience, Litton referenced Southern Baptists.

“I’ll tell you what’s hurting us today. Nobody in the Southern Baptist Convention, nobody in my church, and probably nobody in your church would ever want to be called a bigot,” Litton said, “but indifference is killing us.”

In comments to Baptist Press, Litton said Southern Baptists have made tremendous progress toward racial reconciliation in the past 25 years, but said work remains.

“I would say that many of us don’t think of ourselves as bigots. We don’t think of ourselves as prejudiced, and we disdain that, we hate that terminology, which is not a bad thing,” he said. “The problem is, we live indifferent of the suffering or the needs of many of those in our community who really don’t share a lot with us, in common with us, so we have to cross those barriers.

“Listen, this is the leading problem to why our baptisms are down, is that we tend to homogenize, we go with people who look like us, people we feel comfortable with. So racial reconciliation is impossible without the Gospel.”

Pledge Group President Roy Hill, discipleship pastor of DaySpring Baptist Church, said the group has seen progress in Mobile in building cross-cultural relationships and partnerships.

“We have seen a lot of relationships made among pastors,” Hill said. “We feel like the emphasis of the Pledge Group is Gospel-centered, Gospel-driven racial reconciliation. It has to happen in the churches and we’ve believed from the beginning that for it to happen in the churches, it needs to happen with the pastors.

“And so we’ve seen a number of pastors who’ve established really strong relationships with one another across racial lines.”

The Collective, a diverse group of worship leaders in Mobile, led worship at the event and has been effective, Hill said, in leading worship at events across the city. Seven churches were represented in worship at the event. Richie Riles, men’s basketball coach at the University of South Alabama, was a keynote speaker.

Litton used the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 to emphasize that Jesus wants believers to “feel what the victim’s feeling.” Referencing the woman at the well in John 4, Litton showed that Jesus crossed racial lines in ministry, and that His disciples should do the same.

Litton encouraged humility and said personal suffering allows us to connect with others who suffer.

“Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Ignoring doesn’t heal all wounds. Just praying and saying it’s going to get better doesn’t heal all wounds. Believing in a God Who heals, yes, that’s what heals wounds,” Litton said. “But it also requires that we make intentional treatments of those wounds, that we are persistent and consistent with one another, that we are always a source in the Body of Christ, all of our churches, to experience love and prayer and care for one another.”

The Pledge Group offers Bible studies and videos on its website, ShrinktheDivide.com, and promotes a personal pledge to work toward reconciliation:

In my daily context, I will recognize and engage with persons of other races, speaking a warm greeting to them as fellow travelers on the journey of life;
In my prayers, I will pray regularly for racial unity and harmony and for spiritual revival in our shared local communities and in our nation;
In my personal initiative, I will pro-actively foster and deepen relationships with persons across racial, socio-economic, ethnic and denominational lines.

The full program can be viewed here and on the Pledge Group’s Facebook page.

Send Relief helps Southern Baptists care for the vulnerable

God calls local churches to show love and provide tangible support to their communities, and Send Relief is enabling them to do so. A collaboration of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, Send Relief aims to partner with local churches to equip them with the finances and supplies necessary to help those affected by a disaster or crisis.

Right now, that means an intense focus on Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida and preparation to help resettle thousands of Afghan refugees who have recently arrived in the United States.

Relief from Hurricane Ida requires immediate attention, and there are 26 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief sites coordinating currently across southern Louisiana. Basic necessities like food, water and generators, along with resources for temporary roofing and mold remediation make up much of the current need.

Already, Send Relief has tallied thousands of work hours and provided more than 735,000 meals for those affected by Hurricane Ida. Workers have put in overtime to ensure they are also prepared for the many Afghan families who will require assistance as they arrive United States.

“Southern Baptists are clearly being moved by the crisis in Afghanistan,” said Josh Benton, vice president of Send Relief’s national operations. “They want to be prepared to serve Afghan families and share the Gospel with them.”

Thus far in 2021, hundreds of churches and individuals have given money, signed up as resettlement host homes and registered for training to help in a variety of ways. People appear to be eager to “carry each other’s burdens” – as Christians are directed in Galatians 6:2.

One of the most interesting opportunities is a chance to receive personalized coaching in evangelism, discipleship and cross-cultural awareness from an Afghan refugee expert. Send Relief is also offering workshops on refugee care, as well as PDF downloads, video guidance and resources on ways to specifically pray for refugee ministry.

The influx of refugees offers Christians an incredible opportunity to show love to the stranger. Armed with the support of organizations like Send Relief, churches are paving the way for Christian hospitality.

For Southern Baptists seeking to engage the work of Send Relief, there are a number of ways to get involved. For hurricane relief efforts, monetary donations are most needed. Meeting physical needs provides an avenue for Send Relief volunteers and workers to meet spiritual needs.

“[We] seek to meet the real and felt needs of people and communities,” Benton said, “so that the Gospel can be proclaimed and a connection [made] to a local church.”

Send Relief also provides help to those escaping from sex trafficking and to families involved in foster care and adoption as well as ministries that provide clean water, education and medical care where it is needed most.

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer. This story was first published at ERLC.com.

49 Christians killed, 27 kidnapped in central Nigeria

KADUNA, Nigeria (BP) – At least 49 people were killed and 27 others kidnapped in attacks on Christian communities in southern Kaduna, Nigeria, early this week, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported.

While Fulani militia are blamed for the Sept. 26-27 attacks, many Fulani herdsmen live peaceably alongside Christians and other Muslims and are not involved in the ongoing violence, said Khataza Gondwe, CSW advocacy director and team leader for Africa and the Middle East.

“It’s Fulani militia because they are an irregular, armed faction, trained, that are attacking in a very organized and orchestrated manner,” she said. “There’s a distinction between the Fulani settlers that the people have known for many years, and these people who are coming in to attack.

“That’s why we use that distinction, Fulani militia, so we identify them as the armed faction, as opposed to the rest of the Fulani people who are peaceably living side by side with them, in many instances, or just going about their ordinary business.”

In the deadliest among the latest attacks, militia killed 40 people and injured eight others in a “well-coordinated attack” on the Madamai and Abun communities Sept. 26 around 6 p.m. local time, a Catholic priest who witnessed the attack told authorities. A “significant number” of attackers first killed people known to coordinate security for the community and their families before murdering other victims and burning down 20 homes, CSW reported. Another Catholic priest, Cosmos Michael Magaji of St. Thomas Quasi Parish in Mallagum, listed the names of 33 Catholic victims murdered.

The next day, Sept. 27, militia killed at least one person, injured an untold number of people and kidnapped 27 others in the Gabachuwa community of the Kachia local government area. The murder victim and most of those abducted were members of the Evangelical Church Winning All, sources told CSW.

In a second Sept. 27 attack, militia killed eight people, injured six and burned several homes in an attack on Kacecere village in the Zangon Kataf local government area of southern Kaduna.

CSW founder and president Mervyn Thomas expressed heartbreak for residents of southern Kaduna who face “relentless violence on a near daily basis,” and joined community leaders in calling for increased security.

“The state and federal governments must do far more to protect all vulnerable communities in an unbiased manner and to combat the threats posed by Fulani militia and other armed non-state actors” Thomas said in a press release. “This is also not the first time allegations have been made of inadequate protection despite warnings of an impending attack. This is concerning, and must be investigated by the Nigerian government, and failing that, by the wider international community.”

Religion is not always the main driver of the attacks. Christians are targeted in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, including southern Kaduna, but Fulani militia attacks in northwest Nigeria, including northern Kaduna, also target Muslims, Gondwe said. Marauders in northern Kaduna are often referred to as bandits or violent gangs.

“The Fulani bandits, the ones who are attacking communities in the northwest … these bandits are attacking even Muslim communities,” she said. “The people they’re targeting primarily in the northwest are Hausa Muslims – now we’re talking about a different tribal group – who are indigenous to the area of Nigeria.” Hausa farming communities are primarily impacted in the northwest, while Christian family communities are targeted in the Middle Belt.

Fulani militia are driven by various motivations including a desire to gain control of the land for capital gain, but “religion is increasingly used as something that draws people to the group, whether people are manipulated through it or they feel it’s a religious duty, and then you have the ethnic part as well, the shared ethnicity with the attackers,” Gondwe said.

The predominantly Christian ethnic minority tribes in southern Kaduna have experienced “relentless attacks since 2011,” CSW said. The violence occurs despite the fact that 11 military installations are headquartered in southern Kaduna.

On Sept. 12, a pastor and at least 13 others were killed by Fulani militia in the Zangon Kataf local government area, the site of one of the Sept. 27 attacks.

As a people group, Fulani are the world’s largest nomadic group, numbering 20 million or more and mainly dispersed across western Africa. In addition to Nigeria, the largest Fulani populations are in Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Senegal and Niger, with others living in the Central African Republic and Egypt, among other areas.

Serve with boldness is theme of IMB’s Sending Celebration for new missionaries

Diana and Robert Hefner (campus minister of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, NC), Amy Lee (Abby’s mom), and Susan and Dave Marshall (Grayson’s parents) (left to right), praying over Abby and Grayson Marshall during the IMB Sending Celebration at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church, Richmond, Va. IMB photo

Grayson Marshall’s passion for the nations ignited after a mission trip to Nicaragua. But during his first trip to Japan, “I felt the lostness and brokenness of a people who needed a Savior and felt drawn to go back,” he says.

Abby Marshall grew up feeling inspired by missionary biographies. As a senior in high school, she connected with a missionary who worked in the Middle East. Through that interaction, she felt God calling her to missions.

After they were married, they took a trip to assist a church plant in Japan, and they both felt the calling to go to the Japanese people.

The Marshalls are two of the 34 IMB missionaries recognized during the Sending Celebration on Sept. 30, 2021, at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. The missionaries were approved for appointment by International Mission Board trustees earlier that day during their meeting. One couple approved for appointment was not able to attend the celebration.

Grayson and Abby Marshall are headed to Japan in January. IMB photo
Grayson and Abby Marshall are headed to Japan in January. IMB photo

“Standing in the busiest intersection (Shibuya Crossing) in the world, God opened our eyes to the vast need for His name to be proclaimed in Japan,” Grayson said. “There God pierced our hearts to carry His name and bring hope found in Jesus.”

The Marshalls, along with their nine-month-old daughter, Margot, will move to Yokohama in January. They’ll work alongside national churches to reach, train and equip the Japanese people to help fulfill the Great Commission.

The Marshalls’ sending church is First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, North Carolina.

They’re asking for prayers as they learn the language and for the Japanese people’s hearts to be soft and receptive.

 

Southern Baptists are ‘a sending people’

IMB President Paul Chitwood introduced the new missionaries, who gave brief testimonies of their calling.Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton brought greetings from Southern Baptists, “a sending people,” before encouraging attendees from Philippians 2. He reminded all Southern Baptists that it is the responsibility of the Church to bathe these missionaries in prayer.

“We gather here tonight because we can’t be in heaven yet. Why can’t we be in heaven yet? Because heaven is not yet what heaven will someday be, and God has left the Church here and commissioned it to be used by the Spirit of God to make heaven what heaven will someday be,” Chitwood said, reminding attendees of the IMB’s Revelation 7:9 vision.

“If God is calling you to go, then go. If not, God is calling you to send. So, send. How do you send? You send by praying for those who are going. You send by giving generously so those called to go, can go. You send by becoming an advocate, inviting others to pray and give and go,” Chitwood added.

Guidestone President-Elect Hance Dilbeck spoke to the new missionaries and attendees from Psalm 2 and Acts 4:23-29.

He encouraged them to:

  • Be prepared for hostility from this world that’s in rebellion.
  • Don’t despair. The opposition is real, but it’s empty.
  • Serve Jesus with boldness.

Just as the church in Acts prayed, quoting Psalm 2, Dilbeck said, “My prayer for this group going out to the nations is that you would not despair, but that you would depend on Jesus and continue to serve Him with boldness, no matter the opposition that comes.”

Understanding that God sits on the throne, sovereignly, in heaven, makes all the difference in following the Great Commission, he said.

Chuck Pourciau, lead pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church and chairman of the board of trustees, led in prayer for the missionaries and encouraged congregants to gather around them for prayer.

“We thank God for you, first and foremost, and we commit ourselves to praying for you every night and day.”

Pourciau prayed over the missionaries, specifically for them to have boldness – a theme repeated throughout the service.

Trusting God’s timing

The day after Alli McCarty graduated college, she went on her first mission trip. She wasn’t a believer yet, but a few weeks after that life-changing experience, she put her faith in Christ. From that day forward, a desire for missions was ignited in her, she said.

“Going overseas to serve was something that shaped me, grew me and taught me the urgency of needing to share Christ,” McCarty said.

 

Alli McCarty will be serving as a missionary in Budapest. IMB photo
Alli McCarty will be serving as a missionary in Budapest. IMB photo

During her last semester of graduate school, she felt God calling her to missions, but she also felt it wasn’t time for her to go yet.

As she entered her career, that desire to be overseas never waned, but she learned to wait patiently on God to fulfil His plans for her life.

“This period of not going has grown me in my walk with Christ and led me to pray daily that God would help me to be content in His ways and rely on Him,” McCarty said.

She added, “The fact that there are more than two billion people across the world who don’t know Christ continues to challenge me to ask how I can stay here and not go.”

McCarty is moving to Budapest to reach students through teaching business skills in a collegiate setting. She leaves in January.

McCarty’s sending church is Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

She’s asking for prayers as she learns Hungarian.

The next Sending Celebration will be held on Nov. 8 in Columbia, South Carolina.

If you’re feeling called to missions, visit imb.org/go for more information.

The post Serve with boldness is theme of IMB’s Sending Celebration for new missionaries appeared first on IMB.

Most Americans see churches as helpful during pandemic

NASHVILLE (BP) – Many Americans found themselves in need as the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant loss of life, medical burdens and business closures. Most say local churches were helpful during this difficult season, but some didn’t see the aid congregations were offering.

Nashville-based Lifeway Research found 53 percent of Americans say churches in their community have been helpful during the coronavirus pandemic, with 27 percent saying congregations were very helpful. Few (7 percent) found local churches to be hurtful, but a sizable number say they were neither helpful nor hurtful (23 percent) or weren’t sure (16 percent).

“Many of the practical needs churches in America often meet have increased during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, numerous churches have gone to great lengths to continue and even increase the help they provide,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “But with more people, including traditional churchgoers, staying home and interacting with others less, it has been harder to get the word out about the help churches are making available.”

Most Americans under 50 saw churches in their area as helpful during the pandemic, while those older saw less assistance. Those aged 18 to 34 (56 percent) and 35 to 49 (63 percent) are more likely than those 50 and older (46 percent) to say local churches have been helpful.

Among Americans who identify as Christians, those who attend worship services at least monthly (72 percent) are more likely than those who attend less frequently (42 percent) to say congregations in their community have been helpful.

Religiously unaffiliated Americans (12 percent) are twice as likely as Protestants (6 percent) to say churches have been hurtful. Hispanics (13 percent) are more than twice as likely as whites (6 percent) and African Americans (5 percent) to see local congregations as hurtful during the pandemic.

Areas of service

Most Americans (53 percent) say they heard of local churches or area Christians feeding the hungry in the past six months, but other common acts of service by churches go unnoticed by most.

Four in 10 are aware of churches clothing the poor (40 percent), while around 3 in 10 noticed Christians helping disaster victims (31 percent) and sheltering the homeless (28 percent).

Fewer say they’ve heard about churches supporting local schools (16 percent), providing aid for new mothers (16 percent), offering after-school programs (14 percent), meeting with people in prisons (13 percent), volunteering to provide foster care (12 percent) or tutoring school kids (11 percent).

Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans have noticed in the last six months churches and Christians teaching English to immigrants, teaching job skills (9 percent) or providing tax preparation (6 percent).

For 15 percent of American adults, they haven’t heard of local churches or their members doing any of those things in the last six months. Another 15 percent say they aren’t sure.

The percentage of Americans aware of the ways churches may be serving in their area has declined. From a 2016 Lifeway Research study to today, 10 of the 13 acts surveyed saw a significant decline in the percentage of Americans who say they heard about local congregations or their members serving in that way. Five years ago, Americans who were aware of any churches serving listed an average of 4.8 different ways. Today, that number has fallen to 3.6.

“Last fall, 8 percent of U.S. Protestant pastors said their church was forced to delete a ministry of their congregation due to COVID. More churches had to stop other areas of active service, at least for a season, because of health and safety guidelines,” McConnell said. “Prisons prohibited visitors, schools were closed, and many churches struggled to find safe ways to serve those they had in the past. As ministries have resumed, many churches are still ramping up what they offer as they do not yet have all the volunteers they once had.”

For most of the different areas of service, adults aged 35 to 49, Christians who regularly attend church services and Americans with evangelical beliefs are most likely to have noticed.

Those 50 and older (18 percent), residents of the Northeast (21 percent) and West (18 percent), Christians who attend worship services less than once a month (17 percent), and the religiously unaffiliated (25 percent) are the most likely to say they haven’t heard of churches or their members serving the community in any of the ways surveyed.

Food pantry experience

The increased visibility for food ministry above all the other acts of service may be because a third of Americans (33 percent) say their family has received food from a church-run food pantry in the past. Around 2 in 3 (65 percent) say no one in their family has received such help.

Even though fewer Americans say they heard of churches feeding the hungry in the last six months, more say their family has experienced such help. According to a 2014 Lifeway Research study, 22 percent said their family had benefited from such a ministry, compared to 33 percent today.

“The increase we see in Americans saying churches have provided food for their family at some point likely reflects people who had needs for the first time during the pandemic and a lessening of the stigma around receiving such help,” McConnell said. “After the Great Depression ended, it became less common to depend on others for food. Today, however, a large minority of Americans have experienced this generosity from churches.”

Americans 50 and older are less likely to say their family has received such help than those younger. Additionally, those 65 and older (88 percent) are most likely to say definitively that their family has not benefited from a church-run food pantry.

In some ways, these ministries serve those with closer connections to a local church. Christians who attend worship services at least monthly (37 percent) are more likely to say their family has benefited from church food pantries than Christians who attend less frequently (24 percent).

Americans of other religions (41 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (35 percent), however, are more likely than Catholics (27 percent) to say their family has been helped by food from a church-run pantry.

Methodology

The online survey of 1,005 Americans was conducted Sept. 3-14, 2021, using a national pre-recruited panel. Quotas and slight weights were used to balance gender, age, region, ethnicity, education and religion to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,005 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from the panel does not exceed plus or minus 3.3 percent. This margin of error accounts for the effect of weighting. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Comparisons are made with an online survey of 1,000 adult Americans Lifeway Research conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016 and an online survey of 1,158 adult Americans Lifeway Research conducted Sept. 17-18, 2014.

Evangelical beliefs are defined using the National Association of Evangelicals and Lifeway Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition based on respondent beliefs. Respondents are asked their level of agreement with four separate statements using a four-point, forced choice scale (strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree). Those who strongly agree with all four statements are categorized as having evangelical beliefs:

The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.