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Congregations engage in global missions through sacrificial giving to Lottie Moon Offering

Larry Pepper

Larry Pepper was a NASA flight surgeon before God put him on a different trajectory — working with the International Mission Board at hospitals in Africa.

Editor’s note: This year’s Week of Prayer for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is Dec. 2-9.

Larry Pepper was on a trajectory. He was a NASA flight surgeon who was good at his job, active in his church, involved as a dad—and possibly headed for space. It wouldn’t be long before he ended up as a candidate finalist for a space mission. But God interrupted his plans. As Pepper (left in photo above) thought more and more about his life and its eternal significance, he felt God saying, “You’ve committed everything to me except your job.” It soon became evident God was drawing him to walk away.

“I was beginning to see the world through God’s eyes in terms of lostness,” said Pepper, an International Mission Board doctor in Africa. “For me, that meant seeing if I could use my medical skills in a way that had more kingdom impact.”

So more than two decades ago, he, his wife, Sally, and their three children packed up and moved to Africa—first to Uganda, then Lesotho and Tanzania. Over the years, the Peppers have spent countless hours at the bedside of the hurting, leading them to lasting hope in Christ.

Pepper’s hospital is at the end of a beaten-up road in Tanzania. The facility occasionally gets as full as it can get, and then runs on empty. In the past, it’s had moments where sick children slept two or three to a bed. It’s had moments where anesthetic drugs for C-sections and suture materials for surgery have run out.

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WAITING ROOM – Because of the volume of need at Kigoma Baptist Hospital in Tanzania, the hospital may occasionally run out of room or resources. But IMB medical missionary Larry Pepper says churches always step up to fill in the gaps.

But the situation has never stayed that way for long, the doctor said. Over and over, churches have stepped up to cover the hospital’s needs, all the way from wheelchairs to building a new pediatric wing.

“Churches of all sizes have helped,” he said. “And because they have, we have seen God work to spread the gospel in amazing ways.”

Over the past 22 years, churches have supported the Peppers’ work through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®, the funding source that keeps them on the field. They have provided equipment, and they have met the hospital’s daily needs.

“We’re just two people,” Larry said. “But we find that when other people get a passion to come alongside us, God uses it to further his kingdom.”

The church connection
Every week, worshipers at a church in Shelbyville, Ky., pray for Pastor Fabio in Brazil. Chris Platt, pastor of Highland Baptist Church, says that’s because they’ve met Fabio—and that in turn has made missions personal.

Ever since Chris’s church partnered with the work of IMB missionaries Scott and Joyce Pittman in São Paulo, Brazil, several years ago, the needs there have had faces and names. As the people of Highland Baptist have traveled annually to carry out outreach in the city of 22 million, it’s made them see their part in the “whole ball of wax” that is the Great Commission, Chris said.

“You’ve got missionaries doing what they can and the church doing what we can,” he said. “When you go out into their city and meet the people, your love for missions just comes alive. You give more, you pray more, and you think more about missions.”

Highland Baptist is “no superstar missions church,” Platt said, but the annual trips have bolstered the Pittmans’ work and made the church see that it is “one piece of the puzzle.”

The same is true at First Baptist Church of Andersonville, Tenn., where members give $90,000 annually—the amount needed to fund one IMB missionary couple for a year. The commitment to give has caused a cultural shift in the church, said Pastor Steve Lakin—people are more involved in giving and going too. “We’re just a small church, but through our giving to the IMB, we see how God is using us.”

To learn more about the offering, visit www.IMB.org/lmco.

– Stories and photos from the International Mission Board

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Baptist church saved amidst CA fire
When the deadliest wildfire in California state history struck the town of Magalia, pastor Doug Crowder of Magalia Pines Baptist Church opened his church to those unable to evacuate the town to take shelter with church members and himself. Despite the engulfing flames, the people came out unscathed the next day. While everything around the church had been incinerated, the church’s property was untouched.

Final rules guard conscience from abortion mandate
The seven-year battle by objectors to the abortion/contraception mandate has come to a regulatory close with a victory for freedom of conscience. The Trump administration issued two final rules Nov. 7 that supply conscience protections to Americans with a religious or moral objection to the 2011 mandate instituted under President Obama.

IMB taps Paul Chitwood as presidential candidate
The International Mission Board trustees’ presidential search committee announced Nov. 6 that the committee will recommend Paul Chitwood, 48, to be elected as the 173-year-old entity’s 13th president. The vote to elect Chitwood is scheduled for the Nov. 15 plenary session during their IMB board meeting in Richmond.

IBSA churches meet mission field with ‘Pioneering Spirit’
Illinois set the foundation for IBSA’s Annual Meeting Nov. 7-8 at First Baptist Church in Maryville. The state’s bicentennial highlighted the 112th annual gathering of Southern Baptists in Illinois. The meeting also focused on four “Pioneering Spirit” challenges churches have embraced over the past year so that the gospel is advanced in a state where more than 8 million people do not know Christ.

Man files lawsuit to change age
A Dutch entrepreneur has filed a lawsuit to legally change his age to 49 – that’s 20 years younger than his chronological age. Emile Ratelband wants to change his birth date, stating that if one can change genders, he is justified to change his age. of A local court in the Netherlands will rule on the case in December.

Sources: Baptist Press (3), Illinois Baptist, CBN

The Briefing

China to rewrite Bible, force churches to sing Communist anthems
The Chinese government is supervising a 5-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism. These plans include a “rewrite” of the Bible, singing Communist songs before worship in churches, and including pictures of Communist leaders inside church buildings. China’s crackdown on religion has seen many house churches demolished and represents the highest degree of persecution for independent faith groups the country has seen in decades, The Christian Post reports.

Bible translators complete 1,000th translation
Wycliffe Bible Translators completed its 1,000th full translation of the Bible in South Sudan. The major milestone was achieved in August, though accounts for only 10% of the world’s languages. Some of the remaining 90% have incomplete translated Bibles at various stages, but an ambitious project hopes to have Bible translation efforts underway in every language of the world by 2025.

IMB transitions from Platt to Meador
International Mission Board trustees heard a final address from outgoing president David Platt and approved Clyde Meador as interim president during their Sept. 26-27 meeting near Richmond, Va. Trustees also appointed 66 new fully funded personnel to take the gospel to unreached people and places.

Black men reverse gender split on religion
A study by the Pew Research Center released Sept. 26 found that while black men are less religious than black women, they are more religious than white women and white men. Hispanic women are equally as likely as African-American men to be what Pew considers “highly religious,” followed by white women, then Hispanic men. White men trail in last place with less than half being “highly religious.”

New Jersey schools usurp parents on guidelines for transgender students
New Jersey’s Department of Education has instructed schools to use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender students without the need for parental consent. In keeping with a state policy signed into law last year, schools must also give students access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers that match their gender identity, not their sex. 

Sources: Christian Post (3), Baptist Press, Religion News

 

By Eric Reed

Red BishopWe might feel sorry for the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Three of our leading SBC entities are without presidents, and the incoming convention president will find himself leading in the aftermath of a firestorm. At least we hope it’s the aftermath.

One resigned because of personal moral failure (Frank Page of the Executive Committee). One was removed for inappropriate comments about women and alleged inaction to protect abuse victims (Paige Patterson of Southwestern Seminary). Only one was not under a cloud (David Platt of the International Mission Board). Yet, his departure leaves a great gap in representation by the younger and reformed generation. A lot of people had pinned their hopes on Platt.

Here’s what the next SBC president faces: The EC, IMB, and SWBTS all need new heads. Their presidential search committees operate independently of each other and, officially, free from outside direction and pressures. Yet, with three major vacancies at the top, the SBC seems particularly vulnerable right now, and the next president will be expected to offer whatever assistance he can to stabilize the ships in the fleet. The new heads of those entities will just be getting their feet under themselves during the next SBC president’s first term. Helping them all is a tall order for the next guy.

What kind of leadership is needed in a season of change and uncertainty? How can he lead after this firestorm?

The next SBC president must be public. Past presidents Fred Luter and Ronnie Floyd were very public, both in mainstream media and Baptist press. Steve Gaines was less public, appearing rarely in the national media, especially in his first term. The new guy must be available to the press, write for publication often, and make effective use of social media.

The next guy must be winsome. In this era of failure and the resulting distrust, it will be up to the next SBC president to bolster public opinion of Baptists with thoughtful apologetics and likeable presentation. It won’t hurt to have a good personality.

The next guy must understand the times. Like the leaders in Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), he must be wise and culturally aware. He must take action befitting the age, bringing biblical response to today’s needs. Southern Baptists have been characterized as “tone-deaf” on the subjects of women and abuse. The next guy shouldn’t aim for political correctness, but he must rightly assess the needs of the people in the pews and the watching world.

Indeed, that’s a tall order.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Updated May 23, 2018

By The Editors

As with most things in Texas, this gathering of Southern Baptists promises to be a bit bigger than usual, both in attendance and in the scope and possible impact of the issues likely to be discussed.

Generation and direction: The two announced candidates for SBC president are markedly different, both in age and theology. While recent conventions have concluded with some attempt at conciliation and commitment to work together, this two-man race serves to highlight the differences. Its outcome will likely be interpreted as a shift in direction.

This presidential election is marked by an increase in campaigning by the candidates’ supporters. Young and Reformed J.D. Greear was the candidate who stepped aside two years ago, rather than force a second run-off election and risk deepening divisions between younger leaders beginning to take their place and their parents’ generation, and between Reformed Southern Baptists and those who would call themselves “traditionalists” on the topics of salvation and election.

The elder Ken Hemphill’s experience in a variety of SBC leadership roles positions him as a statesman candidate. A number of other SBC leaders support him as a defender of traditional theology and the Cooperative Program.

The need for assurance: Messengers will arrive in Texas feeling some fallout from Frank Page’s departure as head of the SBC Executive Committee due to personal moral failure. And David Platt announced his intention to step down as International Mission Board president earlier this spring. Both entities have search committees working to fill the vacancies.

The search for new leaders has generated conversation about diversity among denominational leadership. One pastor said it’s “imperative” that at least one of the two roles be filled by a minority candidate (see our report from MLK50 on page 10).

Diversity: The SBC’s process for nominating trustees for its entities is in the spotlight for a lack of diversity among this year’s nominees. According to the “SBC This Week” podcast, the announced group of 69 nominees to serve on SBC boards is made up of 58 men and 11 women; 67 are Anglo, one is African-American, and one is Asian-American.
Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin tweeted in response to the report, “We have got to do better than this. Our trustee boards must reflect the WHOLE SBC.”

The report from the Committee on Nominations is still a work in progress (the group generally has to fill 5-10 spots that come open prior to the convention). Chairman James Freeman said the committee initiated measures at their March meeting to increase diversity, a decision that he said was reinforced by the social media discussion.

ERLC AND social justice: Racial justice and unity may be raised again in Dallas. Throughout his tenure, ERLC President Russell Moore has galvanized younger Baptists with his brand of compassionate activism. Others, though, bristled at his harsh words for supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump, and have since questioned whether the ERLC’s policies reflect the majority of the SBC.

Last year the convention voted on a Moore-led resolution condemning “alt-right racism.” Now Moore has raised the issue of race again at an April conference that ERLC hosted commemorating the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. The ERLC’s report to the convention is, like last year, near the end of the meeting agenda. Moore will be among the last leaders heard from before Baptists leave Texas.

Paige Patterson: The man who led the conservative reclamation of the SBC starting in the 1970s is scheduled to preach the convention sermon in Dallas and many are calling on him not preach the sermon. On May 23 at a special called meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth he was removed as president and appointed president emeritus.

It comes after comments he made in 2000 about domestic abuse recently required a statement from the seminary offering clarification 18 years later. In the comments, which resurfaced last month, Patterson said his counsel to a woman being abused by her husband would depend “on the level of abuse to some degree.” He said he never counseled divorce, and at most temporary separation.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Patterson’s full statement is more stunning today. Fellow Texan Beth Moore, who will speak at an event for pastors’ wives in Dallas, was among the hundreds who tweeted in response, posting “We do not submit to abuse. NO.”

As the trustees met the Washington Post released an article about an incident at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where Patterson was president in 2003. A former student said she told Patterson she had been raped and he urged her not to go to the police, but to forgive the student who was alleged to have committed the crime. Southeastern is investigating the report.

The cost of unity: Perhaps what will mark the Dallas convention isn’t which difficult conversations will be had, because there will certainly be some, but how we Baptists emerge from them. Will the meeting be marked by willingness to stand in unity because what unites us is the gospel? Or will our differences over the nature of gospel itself, and how God brings people to salvation, make the divide, largely generational, even clearer and wider?

Also read #SBCtoo: What we forgot to report may also be forgotten after the convention

– The Editors

The Briefing

Supreme Court hears pro-life and free speech case
On March 20, the Supreme Court will hear National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. The Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act requires pregnancy facilities to post a disclosure to inform clients that “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care and abortion for eligible women,” according to the law.

WA to ‘monetize wombs,’ legalize ‘baby selling’
Washington state is set to legalize commercial surrogacy, a move children’s rights advocates say amounts to the selling of babies, bases the definition of a parent on “intent,” and opens avenues for child abuse and other horrors. On March 14, the Washington state House of Representatives passed the “Uniform Parentage Act.” As the bill stands, no limits are placed on how many children can be procured through surrogacy arrangements.

Turkey wants life imprisonment for US pastor
Turkish prosecutors demanded life imprisonment for jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson in an official indictment presented to Izmir’s 2nd Criminal Court on Tuesday. Arrested without bail since October 2016, the government of Turkey has detained Pastor Brunson largely based on a purported ‘secret witness’ and secret evidence, which they refuse to make public.

IMB missionaries retire to heaven
International Mission Board missionaries Randy and Kathy Arnett, 62 and 61, died March 14 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The missionaries served as theological education strategists for Africa.

‘I Can Only Imagine’ ranks 3rd with $17M
The faith-based film “I Can Only Imagine” brought in $17.1 million at the domestic box office during its opening weekend, going far beyond early expectations and ranking third, behind “Tomb Raider” and “Black Panther.” The Christian-themed movie beat out Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” and a new film about a gay teenage romance, “Love, Simon.”

Sources: Fox News, Illinois Baptist, Christianity Today, The Christian Post (2), CBN

The Briefing

David Platt is ready to leave the IMB
When David Platt became a teaching pastor at a DC-area megachurch last year, onlookers wondered whether the president of the International Mission Board (IMB) could really do both jobs. Platt answered them announcing that he will end his three-and-a-half-year tenure at the IMB to work at McLean Bible Church as soon as the Southern Baptist missions agency can find his replacement.

Christian baker wins Calif. court battle
A California trial court has upheld a Christian baker’s right to refuse to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, but the decision comes as a similar case is already pending in the nation’s highest court. Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller’s freedom of speech “outweighs” the state of California’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace, Judge David R. Lampe said in his decision in the Superior Court of California in Kern County, one of the state’s 58 trial courts.

CBF nixes ‘absolute’ LGBT hiring ban, maintains it for leaders
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Governing Board has voted to lift the Fellowship’s “absolute prohibition” of hiring homosexual and transgender employees. But CBF “leadership positions in ministry” and missionary roles still will be limited to individuals “who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and man,” according to a hiring “implementation procedure” also adopted by the Governing Board. Other positions will be open to “Christians who identify as LGBT.”

Beth Moore, other evangelical leaders publish a letter urging action on immigration
A diverse group of evangelical leaders have put their names on a full-page ad in the Washington Post urging the President and Congress to act on immigration and refugee policy. It has some of the same signatures who have long focused on the welcoming part of immigration. However, it also adds some interesting names, including Bible teacher Beth Moore and popular author Jen Hatmaker, two women who have become increasingly vocal in the Trump era.

Changes in abortion legislation sweeping the country
2017 saw more wins for pro-life legislation than pro-abortion legislation. Including those adopted in 2017, states have enacted 401 abortion restrictions since January 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Legislators in 30 states have introduced abortion bans, with six states enacting new laws in 2017.

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press (2), Washington Post, Stream