Archives For Annie Armstrong Easter Offering

The Briefing

Moody Bible Institute affirms biblical inerrancy
In wake of allegations that not all its faculty affirm biblical inerrancy, the Moody Bible Institute (MBI) took a step to define and strengthen its position on inerrancy, and to hold its faculty accountable. In an e-mail to faculty and alumni, the institute announced it is adopting the Short Statement of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, as well as its Articles of Affirmation and Denial. The institute further stated that all faculty will be required to sign an affirmation of the Chicago Statement as a condition of employment beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year.

The end of international adoption?
New regulations and a $500 monitoring and oversight fee for adoptive families announced by the U.S. State Department in February could spell the end of intercountry adoptions in the United States, according to adoption advocates. Most agencies, or adoption service providers (ASPs), believe their costs to attain accreditation every four years will triple under the new schedule of fees. But the costs are not the main concern, according to Daniel Nehrbass, president of Nightlight Christian Adoptions. In requiring the new fees, he said, adoption agencies are being forced to buy the rope that will be used to hang them.

‘Pronouns matter’: Georgia college suggests ‘ne’ and ‘ve’ as gender-neutral words
The LGBT Resource Center at a Georgia college may want to pay a visit to the English department after a new controversial pamphlet lists several gender pronouns as “ne,” “ve,” and “ey.” The words are featured in a pamphlet titled “Pronouns Matter: A guide to using gender neutral pronouns” that administrators handed out in Kennesaw State University’s Student Center Tuesday, as reported by CampusReform.org.

LGBT advocates threaten to kill pastor over Bible workshop
A pastor of a Detroit-area church along with his family have received death threats, arson threats, and bomb threats from LGBT advocates after advertising a Bible-based workshop for teenage girls struggling with their sexual identity. The six-week workshop for girls 12-16 — which was canceled due to a planned protest by LGBT advocates — was promoted as “a safe place for teenage girls to learn what the Bible teaches about sexuality.” FORGE Ministries designed it “for those struggling with the thoughts that they are Trans – Bi – Gay – or other.”

IL couple featured in Annie Armstrong Week of Prayer
Kempton Turner and his wife, Caryn, have dedicated their lives to helping restore hope in East St. Louis, an area known for gangs, drugs, and staggeringly high murder rates. Their church plant, City of Joy Fellowship, focuses its ministry on the tough inner city where Kempton endured his own struggles growing up, including never knowing his biological mother.

Sources: Julie Roys, World Magazine, Fox News, Life Site News, Annie Armstrong

Kempton Turner

Former East St. Louis resident returns to plant a new church

Editor’s note: Kempton and Caryn Turner are two of the missionaries featured in the 2018 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Week of Prayer for North American Missions. The annual offering, collected in many IBSA churches this spring, supports missionaries appointed by the North American Mission Board.

East St. Louis | Kempton Turner grew up on the same streets where he now serves as a church planting missionary and pastor.

“Because I was raised here, I’ve got a real heart for the people,” says Turner (pictured above left, with youth director Zach Chike). He launched City of Joy Fellowship in East St. Louis in September 2016. “It’s a small city. It’s a dangerous, poor place, 85% fatherlessness. The houses, the buildings, and the roads show the desperate place that East St. Louis is in. The people know struggle.”

In East St. Louis, buildings sit abandoned. The public library, the McDonald’s Turner visited as a child, family-owned restaurants—all closed now. Though the decline in population started more than 100 years ago with an infamous race riot, recent years have seen the numbers dwindle from around 60,000 to 26,000.

“Jobs and police officers have left this city,” says Turner. “Downtown is kind of like a ghost town, but it’s ripe for the gospel. The Lord hasn’t forgotten this city.”

Faith on the rise
It is 6 a.m. and a group of men from City of Joy Fellowship are up before the sun, worshiping with an acoustic guitar. Says Turner, “As the psalmist looked around at the tragic condition of the people in his city, it appeared as though God was unaware, inactive, or asleep. So, he prays, ‘Arise, O Lord.’  “Likewise, we cry out in one way or another every Wednesday morning.”

The prayers ring out over a people facing poverty, gang violence, environmental contamination, and continued decline. Turner, his wife, Caryn, and their five children believe that change is possible. They are working side by side with other believers to show their neighbors that love is real and hope is alive.

Recognizing that teenagers here are in need of community and a safe place to gather, Turner and the team at City of Joy host a youth night on Tuesdays where they train young people how to serve others and hold down a job. The church also goes to the places where youth already gather during the week—schools and community centers—to establish consistency. Their desire is to show teens that they care and are invested in their well-being and future.

Turner names a long list of men and women who have moved to the area to help with the youth: Matt and Hannah, who moved their young family from Missouri; Staricia, who came from Indiana to work in the school system; Lydia, a nurse who has a heart for young people; Joel, a skilled basketball player and coach who uses the sport to connect with the youth; and Zach, who started a Bible study for the youth in his home that has already outgrown the space. The list goes on and on.

“These precious believers are a picture of Jesus, coming out of comfortable suburbs, moving into the heart of a 99.9% African-American city with danger, poverty, and fatherlessness,” Turner says. “They’re moving because Jesus is sending them as a reflection of his heart for this city, and God is blessing their efforts. It’s amazing.”

Building the future
Home renovation is another practical way City of Joy is connecting with their community. Hammers and nails, primer and paint—these are the tools that are allowing believers to build a relationship with people who live near the church.

“All we need is a way to start a conversation,” says Turner. He is training the members to intersect with nonbelievers, meet needs, and share their personal stories of redemption.
Dubbed R3, the outreach ministry is focused on community development, house restoration, business restoration, and employment. The goal is to work corner by corner and house by house throughout the city until each square foot has been covered in both repairs and improvements, as well as prayer.

In their business revitalization program, they work on providing local businesses with the resources to launch or relaunch. They also strive to connect young men and women from the youth program with job opportunities in these local businesses as a way to benefit the local economy and foster a sense of community.

As more people come to know Christ, City of Joy is celebrating more baptisms. And it all started with a very special one that healed a broken relationship from the past. Turner says, “The first baptism at the church was my birth mother who did not raise me. Praise the Lord!”

Indeed, the church is appropriately named. With prayers, planning, and consistent efforts, they are working toward bringing that same kind of joy into every home in East St. Louis. They want people to not only remember this place but to invest in it.

“Some of the neediest places in America are in the inner city,” Turner says. “We’re excited to join the momentum of what God is already doing in this city with so much potential. Acts 8:8—that’s our hope and prayer for East St. Louis: that the Lord will fill the city with joy.”

Turner explains that they are praying for the Lord of the Harvest to send more laborers. The vision for change is great—and so is the need for ministry partners.

“Psalm 127 says, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it,’” Turner noted. “And so, the Lord is the builder. The church is not about bricks and mortar and boards. He redeems his people and puts them in front of others in houses, on street corners, in Sunday school classes and in large- and small-group gatherings.

The Lord builds his people through the Word. And our vision is that the Word of God would so transform East St. Louis that multitudes of souls are saved and established in faith, families are restored, children can have a mom and dad in their house again, prevailing cultural brokenness—like drug addiction and gang violence—would be healed, and churches would be started near and far.

“Our house renovation ministry is just a small echo of the thunderclap of spiritual renovation that we see God doing,” Turner said, “one soul, one house, one block at a time in my hometown.”

– North American Mission Board

The official date for the annual Week of Prayer is the first Sunday in March through the second Sunday in March. Your church can choose this date or another time during the Easter season to participate. Learn more at www.AnnieArmstrong.com.

Six missionary families who have accepted God’s call are featured during the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Week of Prayer for North American Missions, set for March 6-13. The goal for the 2016 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is $70 million.

The Rager family

The Rager family

Three years ago Barry Rager was the pastor of a small Kentucky church. Most of his days were centered on important church business. He prepared sermons, visited sick members and mediated church disputes. All good work. All important work. All kingdom work.

“I was kind of like the coach saying, ‘Hey, reach the people you are with,’ but I wasn’t actually the one doing it,” Rager says.

Three years later, and his life couldn’t be more different. Living in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood of Indianapolis’ core, his mission field is everywhere.

A trip to Indianapolis for the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention first opened Rager’s eyes to the needs of the city. It wasn’t until 2012 that James Edwards came to him with an offer: “We want to plant a church in a major U.S. city, and we want you to be the planter.” Rager didn’t have to think hard about which city.

Edwards, pastor of Pleasant Valley Community Church, and the congregation felt the call to plant a church in an urban city, which eventually led to a strong calling for a church plant in Indianapolis. Edwards had met the Ragers on a playground where a strong friendship was formed. For years, the Ragers and Edwards encouraged and supported each other and their ministries. When Pleasant Valley felt God tell them to plant a church, they prayerfully considered who would lead the church plant.

“Barry Rager’s name continued to surface,” said Edwards. Pleasant Valley asked the Ragers to pray about planting a church in Indianapolis. “It was clear to Barry and Amy that God was calling them to plant a church in the heart of Indianapolis,” said Edwards. “Our strong inclination to partner with Barry and Amy came primarily through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.”

A once thriving city in the 1920s, by the 1960s many residents had moved to the suburbs.

Today, 41.5% of residents do not have a high school diploma. A 2013 NeighborhoodScout.com article called the northern half of the area the 17th most dangerous neighborhood in the U.S.

Indianapolis church planter Barry Rager (left) and New Circle Church use events like S’mores and Snow in the Park to reach a neighborhood many describe as dangerous.

Indianapolis church planter Barry Rager (left) and New Circle Church use events like S’mores and Snow in the Park to reach a neighborhood many describe as dangerous. The Ragers are North American Mission Board 2016 Week of Prayer Missionaries. NAMB photo by John Swain

Once the Ragers relocated to Indianapolis, they were told it would likely take them years to connect with their neighbors and build disciple-making relationships.

“When we moved in, we decided that we were going to be as open and positive as we possibly could be,” Amy Rager says. “Most of the people around here keep their blinds shut 24-7. They’re very closed. So we thought, you know what? Our blinds are going to be open. We’re going to act like we trust these people. We’re going to do anything we can to initiate that relationship.”

Before their boxes were even unpacked, the family showed up on their neighbors’ doorsteps with freshly-baked homemade cookies. They also invited their neighbors into their home for dinner.

As they continued to build community, the Ragers eventually started worship services with 40 people attending in September 2014. That was the launch of New Circle Church, Indianapolis. A year later their worship attendance more than doubled and they had seen 22 people baptized.

Barry focuses the church on a simple-yet-comprehensive mission—introducing people to Jesus, developing gospel-centered community and commissioning them to reach people for Christ.

“What I get to do is brag on Jesus and what He has done,” Rager says. “It is such an honor to brag on Jesus.”

“I think if it is never our intention to live on mission, then we won’t live on mission,” Rager says. “We have to be intentional in the way we use our time, and in the meetings we have with people.

– By Tobin Perry on www.AnnieArmstrong.com

Editor’s note: March 1-8 is the Week of Prayer for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, which supports Southern Baptist missionaries all over North America. View more videos like the one below at anniearmstrong.com.

MISSIONS | As a traveling musical evangelist, Mark Lashey longed for a church in his Delaware city like the ones he visited around the country. Turns out the church Middletown, Delaware, needed was one he would start.

“I never had considered myself, or desired to be, a pastor or to plant a church,” Lashey says in a video for the 2015 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. “But we unknowingly were really kind of tilling the soil for a church plant for 10 years, as we built relationships with people, our neighbors, our friends.

“And still feeling incapable and unqualified and all those different things, felt like we had to do something. So we started a Bible study in our home.” The Bible study grew into LifeHouse Church, which launched in 2012 and has seen 150-200 people baptized.

-Story and video from the North American Mission Board

 

Today marks the end of the Week of Prayer for North American Missions. In this post, we go back to Day 1 for a look at Chicago church planters Scott and Ashley Venable.

Scott Venable“It’s the most eclectic place you can imagine,” church planter Scott Venable says of his Chicago neighborhood. “It has drug dealers and businesspeople. When we prayerwalked as we were looking for a place to start the church and we got to Wicker Park, we just knew it was it.”

One of the most famous neighborhoods in the Windy City, Wicker Park is the kind of place where million dollar homes are just a few blocks down from government housing. It’s also a place that needs churches. Scott and his wife Ashley are planting Mosaic Church with a focus on serving the community, and sharing the Gospel in Chicagoland, where only 10 percent of people know Christ.

Pray for Mosaic Church Chicago as they live out  the Great Commandment and carry out the Great Commission – may they see many transformed lives.

Go to www.anniearmstrong.com/scottvenable to watch “Where to Start,” a video about the Venables’ work in Wicker Park.

Many Southern Baptist churches will mark the Week of Prayer for North American Missions this week. For more information about the week of prayer or the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, contact IBSA’s Missions team at (217) 391-3138.

PowerPlantDay 7 – Short-Term Missions
Every day of the year, young men and women are working alongside missionaries throughout North America. Through summer and semester opportunities, they are discovering future areas of service as they learn from experienced church planters and missionaries. And they’re also developing their own relationship with God as He uses them to meet the spiritual and physical needs of others, and to experience new cultures and missional living firsthand.

Pray for more young people to answer God’s call to serve in short-term missions experiences. Pray also for summer and semester missionaries to be stretched and challenged during their times of service so they may more easily discern God’s call to missions for the long term.

Many Southern Baptist churches will mark the Week of Prayer for North American Missions this week. For more information about the week of prayer or the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, contact IBSA’s Missions team at (217) 391-3138.

Victor Thomas, Simon Fraser University, collegiate ministry, campus ministryDay 6 – Victor and Candice Thomas
Victor and Candice Thomas landed in Vancouver from South Africa promising they’d never stay. They meant to be there for four months, but Victor, a researcher at Simon Fraser University, found a new calling in Burnaby, a quick train ride from the city’s downtown.

Three weeks before they were to go home, Thomas walked the Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser, his eyes seeming to open for the first time. “I saw these students with blank looks on their faces…” he said. “It was as if God was saying, ‘Isn’t this the poverty I’ve called you to?’”

The Thomases now lead The Point, a church they’ve helped grow from a small Bible study to four sites where 90 people gather for weekend worship services.

Pray for more ministry partners to answer God’s call to reach the lost in Vancouver.

Go to www.anniearmstrong.com/victorthomas to watch “We Had to Do Something,” a video about a young couple who heard the Gospel at The Point.