Archives For Missions

The BriefingChurches are open for Christmas
Nearly 9 out of 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold services on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as both fall on a Sunday, according to LifeWay Research. Small churches and large churches are slightly less likely to be open for Christmas. Pastors in the Midwest (92%) and South (89%) are more likely to say their church will be open on Christmas.

Hark! The herald hipster sings
For those that have wondered what it would be like if Jesus was born in 2016 or what a modern day wise man would look like — hint: he wears skinny jeans — the folks at Modern Nativity have the answer. The company has created a hipster version of the classic nativity scene featuring a young Mary and Joseph taking a selfie with baby Jesus in a solar-paneled stable.

Macy’s ends Planned Parenthood gifts
Macy’s Inc.’s latest 990 tax form verifies that the retail giant no longer includes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in its community contributions, the research group 2ndVote said, describing the news as the latest “miracle on 34th Street.”

Compassion International out of India
Compassion International, a Christian nongovernmental organization (NGO) that aids 145,000 impoverished Indian children, has three weeks left in the country unless officials give it a reprieve. It is the largest humanitarian presence in the second most populated country in the world—providing $50 million in annual relief funds. But India is cracking down on foreign NGOs based on fears that groups are using humanitarian work to mask evangelization efforts.

Graffiti welcomes Muslims in MO
At a time when reports of anti-Muslim sentiment are rising, an Islamic Center in Missouri has received a different message. Kamel Ghozzi, imam at the Islamic Center of Warrensburg, says “Welcome” and “Thank you for choosing our community” were written in chalk on the center’s sidewalk during the weekend.

Sources: Facts and Trends, CNBC, Baptist Press, World Magazine, Fox News

‘Why we do what we do’

ib2newseditor —  December 8, 2016

Week of Prayer missionaries take gospel light to dark places

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Rodney and Helen Cregg’s work in a large city helps rescue women from prostitution.

The Indian bride wore blue silk, trimmed with gold. Rich fabrics in brilliant hues are traditional for wedding saris in this megacity.

But the guest list was anything but typical. Among those celebrating this day were 20 prostitutes—women who were like family to Shanti.* She knew them from the years she shared their heartbreaking lifestyle as a prostitute. That was before the ministry of a Christian activity center rescued Shanti from her former life. She is now a believer and has a good job to support herself. And on this day, she even married a Christian man.

International Mission Board missionaries Rodney and Helen Cregg* have partnered in establishing the activity center that offers prostitutes a place to learn basic skills in the middle of a notorious red-light district.

The Creggs are supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, an annual offering facilitated by the International Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union in partnership with Baptist state conventions. Many churches will mark the Week of Prayer Dec. 4-11.

“This is why we do what we do, to see these ladies—and other people in [this city]—realize the hope in the gospel and then find victory in freedom,” Rodney says.

Another woman at the center agrees: “Being involved at the center, I am finding the love I didn’t get from my family from people who know the Lord. Through Jesus I am experiencing love. I am blessed.”

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Young men in Southeast Asia meet to study the Bible.

Finding home again
Missionary Layla Murphy* was shopping in a vegetable market in Southeast Asia when she heard phrases she understood. Two women were speaking the language of the Buddhist country from which she had just been expelled, after laboring for years to share the gospel.

Soon Layla learned that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and refugees from her former country lived in this sprawling urban center. God’s providence had set her right in the middle of the gospel-hungry people that she’d felt called to serve. Then, a national pastor asked her to stay right there to teach, train, and disciple new believers from the country that she can’t live in but calls “home.”

On the first day of class, she planned for 15 students but 50 showed up. “God had put hunger for his Word deep in their hearts and this was the first time that they’d ever had the chance to learn [the Bible].” Though she would rather serve in the country she loves, “this deepened my trust in God.” Her students tease her that she is also a refugee—the American refugee, Layla says.

“That sort of binds our hearts together.”

For more Lottie Moon and Week of Prayer resources, go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

*Names changed.

– From IMB.org

New IMB strategy targets cities and self-funded volunteers

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This model of London fills a room at the New London Architecture Museum. The areas marked by white circles are near Underground (subway) stations. They are the focal points of church planting, making participation in worship and Bible study groups easily accessible to the city’s highly mobile population.

(Editor’s Note: The Week of Prayer for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and International Missions is Dec. 4-11.) Tourists from around the world flock to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The Tower Bridge, and other iconic English landmarks. Getting around via the Tube, red doubledecker buses, or those famous London black cabs is simple, and very British. It’s very easy to lose oneself in the surroundings. But the world is moving to London, and sharing its culture with it.

Across the street from the Royal London Hospital are rows of shops featuring Middle Eastern goods including halal meats, and just a few blocks away is the largest mosque in London. Other parts of the city are home to large Indian populations and curry has become a staple of the British diet.

Some 300 languages are spoken by its 8.3 million people within its 607 square miles. According to the International Mission Board, 37% of its residents come from outside the United Kingdom and one-quarter of its population arrived within the last five years. Forbes magazine named it “#1 City of Influence.”

London by the numbers

300 languages spoken

37% of population from outside the UK

¼ population arrived within the last 5 years

50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000+

34 average age in London

44.7% profess no religion, “nones”

20 average church attendance

This diversity is why London was chosen as one of five cities the International Mission Board (IMB) has selected to be part of its Global Cities Initiative (GCI). In previous centuries most of the world’s population lived in rural areas. In this century, 54% of world’s population lives in urban areas and the Southern Baptist Convention’s missions sending agency has taken notice. The cities represent life-altering, world-changing, gospel-planting opportunities that can’t be missed.

The four other GCI cities are Dubai, where 80% of the population is foreign-born with more than 2 million residents from more than 200 nationalities; Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, home to 8 million people with 62% following Islam and 20% Buddhism; Shanghai, the largest city in China with a population of more than 24 million people, most of whom claim to be nonreligious or atheist; and an unnamed Southeast Asian city that’s home to nearly 17 million people with large populations of Hindus and Muslims and very few Christians.

“Every people group is represented in London. This is what heaven will look like,” said James Roberts, the IMB London city manager.

He described the economic conditions of the people living in the city, “There’s a wide gap financially, the poorest of the poor and the super wealthy, very little middle class. We’re trying to work together more across affinity groups.”

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Exit signs in the London subway system read “Way Out.” For Southern Baptists sharing Christ in this bustling multi-cultural melting pot, the phrase speaks of opportunity the gospel offers for more than half of Londoners who claim a non-Christian religion or no religion at all.

Where do you even begin to start in such a large city?

Victoria. Paddington. White Chapel. They’re all stations in the London Underground subway system where up to 4.8 million passenger journeys take place each day, according to Transport for London. There are 280 stations along the 11 lines of the Tube, as it’s commonly called. The stations are the key to IMB’s outreach here.

“The goal is to have a missional community in each area,” Roberts said, describing a map-driven analysis of the entire city. “A missional community is a group that discerns how God is moving and tries to gather to share community—mom’s groups, small groups, men’s groups.”

The team in London knows it won’t be easy. “It’s a lot of networking, coffee, work, limitless streams of people coming in,” Roberts said. “We try to connect, catch people as they come with the goal of starting new groups and church work. It takes a village to pull this thing off and courage to pull this together.”

Shane Mikeska is a student mobilizer on the London team. Before coming to England, he and his family lived in Asia, but illness forced a move from the tropics. “Western Europe is the hardest place to engage the population. In Asia it’s easier to have a spirited conversation. Here in this context most (people) are apathetic.”

On campuses, he said, “the students most open to new things are internationals. There are opportunities to connect to hold worship and Bible study.” Reaching them is a focal point in the cities initiative. “They can go home and go into their culture and share boldly.”

About 50,000 Americans study abroad each year and many are Christians. “We want them to come and plug into the local church and ministry, not just travel and experience things.”

You are here
The Global Cities Initiative allows people who feel called to go—but not in the traditional career-missionary way.

D. Ray Davis is part of the IMB mobilization team. “We used to say God is calling and people aren’t listening. Now we’re saying God is calling and more people are listening than we can send.”

IMB President David Platt uses the word “limitless” to describe his vision for reaching the world: limitless numbers of missionaries utilizing “multiple pathways” to the mission field. GCI is one of those pathways to “send limitless missionaries to engage lostness all over the world,” Roberts said. “Business professionals, students, retirees—a GCI person raises their own support.” Groups and individuals are also invited to come serve on short-term projects. “There’s no language barrier to overcome,” Roberts said of his London mission field.

After getting to know the city, Mikeska has grown to love London and thinks others will too. “Now, I look at this vast city and wail over it and cry over it, like in the Bible. God’s done a transformational work in my heart,” the young missionary said. Even as he weeps for the lost, Mikeska concludes, “We’re excited about the future, being part of this team.”

To learn more, visit IMB.org. All statistics, unless otherwise noted, are from the International Mission Board.

– Lisa Sergent recently traveled to London to meet with members of the International Mission Board’s communications team. With staffing changes abroad and at the Richmond, Virginia headquarters, IMB is implementing new mission strategies. The goal is to multiply the number of missionaries on the field, especially short-term and volunteer workers who will practice their professions and their faith among the world’s lost people. Targeting huge cities in five regions of the world is one of those strategies.

Week of Prayer is December 4-11

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Trey Haun, 10, lives with his parents in Ghana, where they serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board

It was near midnight when IMB missionary Dr. Heidi Haun had finished up an abdominal surgery and returned home. Her baby, Karen Jane, and son, Trey, 10, had long been in bed under the watchful eye of her husband, William.

The Hauns serve in Nalerigu, Ghana, and her patient was a woman who sells cabbages under a mango tree on market days in town. Heidi had planned to perform surgery earlier in the day, but the operation was delayed by an emergency cesarean section. Still, after surgery that night, Heidi said the woman reached out to grasp her hand and thank her.

“I think that’s the neatest thing about having patients that live here in town…it leads to opportunities for relationship and gospel sharing,” Heidi explained. “I look forward to the opportunity to share Christ with her—more than just a patient-doctor relationship.”

The Hauns are two of the thousands of Southern Baptist missionaries supported by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, an annual offering established in 1888. After more than a century, Lottie Moon giving continues its steady growth, including its largest-ever offering last year—$165.8 million.

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Trey’s mom, Heidi, is a physician and his dad, William, works in media.

The goal for the 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $155 million. During the week of Dec. 4-11, many Southern Baptist churches will focus on international missions in a Week of Prayer highlighting eight missionaries and missionary families, including the Hauns in Ghana and Zack and Jennifer Dove, who serve in Norway.

Sharing the gospel isn’t a one-time deal for the Doves, who work as church planters. It’s an everyday part of their lives as they deepen relationships and bridge conversations toward gospel truths in Sandefjord, Norway.

“Zack will say often…We don’t need to let cultural norms be the filter,” Jennifer explains. “We need to let the gospel be the filter and so just share a little bit and see where it lands and plant that seed.”

Though Norway has been a Christian nation for a thousand years, in recent decades spiritual life has withered and church buildings often stand empty. Only 2% of Norwegians regularly attend services—one of the lowest attendance figures in Europe. The Doves encourage existing believers and share with others who live without hope. Southern Baptists can join their work through prayer.

“Just knowing that people are praying is such an awesome thing, and then just knowing that people are giving to the Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering], that’s such an encouragement.”

For more on this year’s Offering and Week of Prayer, go to IMB.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

– IMB.org

Lost in London

ib2newseditor —  November 7, 2016

london-sceneWhen you travel you have to make allowances for some of the local customs. In New Orleans, prepare for Cajun cooking and in coastal southern California enjoy the more relaxed pace of life. In foreign countries the differences can be even more pronounced. But if you’re traveling to another English speaking country it can’t be that different, right? Wrong.

A week the southwest of England shined a spotlight on some of those differences.

A crosswalk isn’t a crosswalk. It’s a Zebra (pronounced with a short “e” sound) crossing. Other types of pedestrian crossings are Pelican, Puffin, Toucan, and Pegasus (for horses and their riders.) Google them for fun.

No washcloths for you. Not all hotels provide “flannels” the English word for washcloths. They are considered too intimate an item to be washed and reused by another person, so bring your own.

Can I get ice with that? It’s true, most beverages are served lukewarm in England, except tea, which is hot of course. I was told that if you ask for a glass of ice to go with your Coke, you would get four cubes and a slice of lemon. That’s exactly what happened. It became a game to me to count the ice cubes. One nice server in London went over the apparent allotment and gave me five cubes.

We don’t have restrooms here. Don’t ask to use the public restroom or bathroom, they don’t have one. They do have a public toilet, or loo. It may cost you 20 or 30 thirty pence (about 35-50 cents), and may or may not be clean.

One word – scones. My fellow Americans, we have been lied to by bakery cafés (you know who you are). Scones are not hard triangular-shaped baked goods. No, they are soft and biscuit-like and so delicious topped with clotted cream (bad name, great taste) and jam.

Empty churches. Sorry folks, this one isn’t funny. England is filled with lovely old churches, but sadly, most have become tourist attractions. People line up for tours of Westminster Abby and St. Paul’s Cathedral and for the services, however most of those attending the services are tourists too.

The church grounds are beautifully landscaped and immaculate, and popular with the locals. They are great spots for enjoying a picnic lunch in the middle of a hectic work day.

Of course there are flourishing churches in England, but they are few and far between. England and the rest of western Europe culturally trend 5-10 years ahead of the United States. This isn’t a trend Christians in the U.S. shouldn’t follow.

Lisa Misner Sergent recently spent time in England and will be writing a series of articles about the state of Christianity and missions in that country in upcoming issues the Illinois Baptist newspapers.

By John Yi

Editor’s note: This post is one in a series on cross-cultural ministry, taken from a round table discussion between four Illinois pastors and leaders. Click here to read more from their conversation, published in the September 29 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper. 

john-yiJohn Yi is IBSA’s second-generation church planting catalyst in Chicago, founder of a community ministry in Maywood, and a leader at Bethel SBC, a church plant in Mt. Prospect. Visit John at the virtual vision tour sponsored by the IBSA Church Planting Team during the IBSA Annual Meeting Nov. 2-3 at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Chicagoland.

On living where you serve
I think my wife and I always knew that once we got to the place where we would set down our roots ministry, we would have to live in the community where we were going to do our work.

We were not going to be commuting. That was something we had both experienced in our young adult years—traveling to go to church. In fact, until we lived in Maywood and started our ministry there, I don’t think I had ever lived and gone to church in the same town.

…the sacrifice might mean having to pull up your roots and go to a place that feels very uncomfortable and unnatural to you.

We lost some other comforts in the move too. A lot of our friends are away from us too.  We were distant from the people with whom we felt comfortable.

On becoming a community church
We still live in Maywood. And in the years since our move there, we’ve learned the sacrifices were worth it. I think in order to be cross-cultural, there has to be a weighing of what is not necessary for the sake of ministry. We have done that at our church, Bethel SBC, too. Part of us wanting to become a community church means we really have to become less Korean.

In Korean churches it is almost a universal practice to have a lunch fellowship after the worship service and it is almost always Korean food. When I first proposed not doing Korean food anymore, there was an uproar. I’m like, “Why can’t we just do sandwiches or order pizza once in a while, or do spaghetti and meatballs?”  That’s how it was at the beginning, but now I can’t even remember the last time we had a Korean meal at church.  Our members have really taken to this idea that we really have to make it more accessible. We want to get rid of all the barriers, and I think that is one of the sacrifices we have to sometimes make.

And sometimes, the sacrifice might mean having to pull up your roots and go to a place that feels very uncomfortable and unnatural to you.  We know missionaries do that all the time when they go to a foreign country, but when you weigh the value of the gospel and the Kingdom of God, I think sometimes those things that seemed so important to us start to lose their luster.

Stronger Churchers

ib2newseditor —  September 17, 2016

Mission Illinois Offering Week of Prayer Day 7

MIO-box-smallStrong ministry depends on strong churches. More than 20,000 times each year, IBSA trains leaders in worship, evangelism, discipleship, missions, and more. For pastors and leaders who find these to be especially challenging times for their churches, IBSA’s zone consultants are experts in church health and growth who are nearby and available to help. One example is Sylvan Knobloch who has led and lifted up pastors in his 35 years with IBSA. He urges churches to consider the needs of others first and to engage a process of rejuvenation.

Another team member is Brian McWethy, a church planter and pastor in Amboy who is serving as zone consultant in the northwest corner of Illinois. That region, including Rockford and the Quad Cities, has fewer churches than any other part of Illinois, and the few churches there need strength and encouragement.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering

Pray for church health director Sylvan Knobloch, and for team leader Pat Pajak and IBSA’s consultants in ten zones who serve to build up pastors and churches across Illinois.

Watch IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams in “Our Frontier State.”