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Proud moment

ib2newseditor —  September 1, 2016

Sandy Wisdom-Martin elected to lead National WMU

Sandy_Wisdom-MartinThe news spread quickly among Illinois Southern Baptists that one of their own was named to serve as executive director/treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union.

Sandy Wisdom-Martin, an Illinois native who grew up near the small town of Marissa, was unanimously elected by the WMU executive board at a special-called meeting July 29-30 in Birmingham, Ala. She directed women’s missions and ministries for IBSA from 2001 until 2010, when she moved south to serve as executive director of WMU of Texas.

“Many of us here in Illinois are ‘busting our buttons’ with pride and gratitude for Sandy’s selection, because we consider her one of our own,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams.

The Illinois Baptist paper is not large enough for me to list the ways or the people who have impacted my life. I take with me to Birmingham a priceless heritage passed down to me by faithful Christ-followers.

“People eagerly hear her, respond to her, and follow her because of her personal integrity and character, and because she clearly follows the Lord’s leadership in her own life.”

Wisdom-Martin was highly involved in Illinois WMU as a student, serving on the state Acteens panel and several Acteens Activator mission teams. She also was the first recipient of the Darla Lovell Scholarship from Illinois WMU while studying at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

While at IBSA, she served as president of Mississippi River Ministries and led the first international WMU Habitat for Humanity team, which traveled to Ghana to build houses.

“I am thrilled beyond words in Sandy’s selection as Executive Director of WMU,” said Evelyn Tully, who directed Illinois WMU prior to Wisdom-Martin. “Her missions commitment, her ministry lifestyle, and her exemplary relationships have uniquely prepared her for this tremendous responsibility.

“I know Illinois missions-minded women will be her strong prayer supporters.”

The Illinois Baptist interviewed Wisdom-Martin via e-mail shortly after her election:

Illinois Baptist: Congratulations! We’re so excited one of our own is on her way to Birmingham!

Sandy Wisdom-Martin: Thank you. That means a great deal to me.

IB: Let’s start with the name and role of your organization. What does “woman’s” and “auxiliary” mean in the 21st century?

SWM: Our leaders have all said in different ways, “We are not a women’s organization, we are a missions organization.” My first full-time ministry supervisor, Julia Ketner at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, said, “We shout missions and whisper WMU.”

We are not about perpetuating an organization. We are about making Christ known in the world. If we focus on who we are, we will fail. If we focus on Christ and the mission he has given us, we cannot fail.

IB: What will you take from your Illinois/IBSA experience to Birmingham?

SWM: I am a product of Illinois Southern Baptists. The daughter of a coal miner and foundry worker. The first Illinois Southern Baptists I knew were my Christian parents who worked hard and served well. I learned lessons too numerous to mention. The members of Clarmin Baptist Church poured their lives into mine giving me every advantage possible as a young Christ-follower.

A new pastor’s wife introduced our church to Acteens and I discovered what God was doing in the world. State missions camps and events, as well as Acteens Activator teams, sealed my heart for missions. Then came the opportunity to rub shoulders with heroes of the faith who served with the Illinois Baptist State Association. In college, the Nine Mile Baptist Associational WMU council invited me to join their team. They let me teach conferences. I was awful. They loved me anyway. Baptist Student Union at SIU-Carbondale became one of the most important discipling influences of my life.

And that’s only the beginning. The Illinois Baptist paper is not large enough for me to list the ways or the people who have impacted my life. I take with me to Birmingham a priceless heritage passed down to me by faithful Christ-followers.

IB: How will you make WMU relevant for a new generation of women?

SWM: We have challenges to be sure. The future will demand higher visibility and more options. I find that when people understand what we really do, they value us.

As WMU, we have these six objectives: pray for missions, engage in mission action and personal witnessing, learn about missions, support missions, develop spiritually toward a missions lifestyle, and participate in the work of the church and denomination. While we want people engaged in all six objectives, ministries seem to be the way to capture people’s heart for missions initially.

So, in Texas, we began doing things like building houses in partnership with local associations. We converted an old bus to a rolling WorldCrafts store and have sold more than $100,000 in WorldCrafts products while teaching shoppers about fair trade and missionaries who work with artisans. We have a truck and generator being converted into a “Suds of Love” laundry unit.

Once we get people involved initially, we invite them to go deeper in missional living. We strive to engage missional disciples for life.

IB: It seems like a lot of churches have moved away from missions education programs like Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors. Do you think people need to be reminded (or taught for the first time) why missions education is important?

SWM: I think the experience of 2015 should be enough to remind people of the importance of missions education. Between 600-800 international missionaries were brought home (because of budgetary shortfalls at the International Mission Board). When people know about the needs of the field, they respond by praying and by giving. When they don’t know, the reverse happens.

I think we have moved away from missions education because we have moved away from the Great Commission. We are failing at the one thing Jesus told us to do which is “make disciples.” Making disciples is a lifelong process.

I am who at I am today because Illinois Southern Baptists began pouring their lives into mine and discipling me through local church missions education, missions education camps, associational missions, campus ministry and statewide missions activities. I grew up passionate about the Cooperative Program because that was what I was taught. We lived and breathed missions in my small country church. It was not an option. It was part of the DNA of our congregation.

IB: People today are awfully busy. How can WMU leaders find time on the church schedule for missions education?

SWM: We live in a wonderful age where resources are readily available and creativity abounds. There are countless ways to engage in missions education and involvement.

WMU provides premier missions resources. I think the problem is not with church schedules or other issues. I think the primary problem is that we have forgotten our “why.”

Our identity is with Christ. We believe Christ gave his all for us. We follow his teachings and his example. We do it all for the sake of Christ. We believe we are people made in the image of God with infinite worth because we are his creation. We know we are broken people in need of restoration and healing. Through Christ’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace, our lives are being made new. We are passionate about telling his story and how it has changed us. We want every culture to know his story and be changed by it as well. We give our lives to that pursuit. That is why we do what we do.

IB: What does partnering with the International Mission Board look like now, with a new leadership team and reduced missionary force from funding challenges?

SWM: I’m looking forward to discussions with both IMB and NAMB (North American Mission Board) when I get settled, but believe our partnership will focus on reaching the nations for Christ as it always has. WMU actively promotes the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Week of Prayer for International Missions, encourages members to pray for missionaries daily through the missionary prayer calendar, coordinates stateside housing, provides water filters through Pure Water, Pure Love, and so much more.

IB: What is WMU’s main point of connection with NAMB, given its church planting focus?

SWM: Through our partnership with NAMB, we help participants live out the six objectives we discussed earlier. We count it a joy to be able to tell the stories of all our missionaries, as well as support their work through extensive promotion of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Week of Prayer. We also support NAMB missionaries through Christmas in August, scholarships for MKs (missionary kids), and more. When it is possible, we continue to invest our lives in their ministries through hands-on involvement.

IB: How do you make missions cool in a world without borders? What is the compulsion to “Go…” when “all the world” seems so close these days?

SWM: For more than 125 years, the name of our organization has been said incorrectly in many venues. We are named Woman’s Missionary Union because it is the individual woman who understands and responds to God’s call on her life.

That is how we make missions cool. We help each individual understand their own giftedness and God’s call on their life to make disciples. It’s not about what you do. It’s about who you are in Christ. You were created in the image of God for His purpose and glory. We are here to help nurture that call.

TentI often find myself at denominational functions looking around the room and wondering, “What is it that really brings us together here?” Is our unity based simply on an expressed common desire to reach the lost? Or do we gladly join together in mission because we have deeply shared doctrinal convictions?

I’ve found some guidelines in a couple of the smallest books in the Bible, 2 and 3 John. One way to read these short letters (which combine for a total of just 28 verses) is to put them side-by-side as two crucial lessons in cooperation.

First, here is some background to both books: a church planting movement is taking root in the Roman world furthered by traveling missionaries who depend upon support from other Christians, primarily in the form of food and lodging.

In 2 John the tone and feel is one of caution: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world.” “Watch yourselves.” The emphasis is on getting the gospel right. Specifically, some of these traveling missionaries “do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh,” what has been referred to as the “Gnostic heresy.” John speaks soberly of remaining in Christ’s teaching and not going beyond it. He then directs genuine believers: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home… for the one who says, ‘Welcome’ to him shares in his evil works.” In other words, don’t cooperate with everyone!

The tenor is different in 3 John. Here John is commending a “dear friend” for his generosity to certain missionaries. The emphasis in this mini-epistle is on getting the gospel out. “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” These missionaries “set out for the sake of the Name” and trusted God to provide through his people. “Therefore, we ought to support such men,” says John. He even calls out a guy named Diotrephes for his independent spirit. “He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so.” Don’t be like Diotrephes. Don’t cooperate with no one!

2 John teaches us not to make our tent too big. 3 John encourages us not to draw our circle too small. We need both messages.

Notice the disproportionate amount of times the words truth and love occur in these two short letters. We absolutely cannot disconnect them. There are people who have great drive, but do not have good doctrine. We have to be discerning about who we partner with. On the other hand, there are Christians who are cranky and overly separatist. We must be large-hearted and kingdom-minded.

Because of 2 John I know that the Apostle John would applaud the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Is it not amazing that we have six top-notch seminaries that are committed to robust and orthodox theological training?

At the same time, based on 3 John, I am pretty certain that the Apostle would thoroughly endorse the concept of the Cooperative Program and be thrilled with our North American and International Mission Boards. It is wonderful that we have state and local associations. And is it not telling that we have Directors of Mission and not District Superintendents? We are the people who come up with campaigns like “Million More in ’54.” And I love that I live in what was once a Strategic Focus City, now a SEND City.

However, we have not always gotten this balance right. At times I have seen people approved for work in the SBC based on their passion without an examination of their doctrine. And at other times I have seen people who were well qualified turned away because of a technicality.

In all of our missional zeal, may we never fudge on doctrinal clarity. And in making sure we are all on the same page about what the gospel is, may we make sure we are doing whatever it takes to get the gospel out. If we are truly faithful to Scripture, we will heed the lessons of both 2 and 3 John. But there just might be something to the fact that 2 John comes before 3 John.

Nathan Carter is pastor of Immanuel Baptist in the University District of Chicago.

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

Chicago, IllinoisCOMMENTARY | While many college students were using summer break to relax and catch up on some much-needed sleep, one group of undergrads dedicated their downtime to proclaiming the name of Jesus throughout the city of Chicago, one of our country’s biggest mission fields.

The North American Mission Board started a program a few years ago called Generation Send. They identified 32 cities in great need of laborers and then sent students out to work in them. This past summer almost 400 youth showed 16 of these cities the love of Christ as they learned what it meant to live a life on mission in an urban context.

Students from Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee were excited to come and serve in the unique and diverse community of Chicago. They arrived at the beginning of the summer with few expectations for the coming months but to see Christ glorified.

Chicago contains 77 neighborhoods filled with people from across the world. It is the third largest city in the U.S., but less than 10 percent of the population is involved with an evangelical church. They are in desperate need of the gospel and for people to come and serve in the name of Christ.

Two of the student leaders through Generation Send, known as mobilizers, were returning to Chicago for the second summer in a row. They had become extremely burdened for the city and wanted to continue sharing that passion with others. Looking beyond all the glitz and the glamour, Chicago is still a place where people have real needs and individuals are desperately lacking gospel truth. Realizing this firsthand has a way of leaving an imprint on one’s heart.

Four mobilizers led teams of 3-10 people in four of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods. Students engaged business owners, college students, young professionals, different ethnic groups, families, and many others for the gospel.

Every week a Generation Send student would encounter someone who needed to hear God’s truth. And many times they were receptive to it. Less than halfway through the summer, students couldn’t bear the thought of going home and leaving these people behind.

In July when it was time to say goodbye, one team had the privilege of leaving Bibles with a Muslim family who owned a restaurant that they visited several times a week. Another team came alongside a church planter and his family and helped them prepare for their first Sunday preview service. In a matter of only six weeks, these students from Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee were completely broken for this place that desperately needs Jesus.

One mobilizer has now made the commitment to move to Chicago. In September she will move from her quiet, small town in Louisiana to the chaos of the Windy City, all to further the gospel. Another student is also praying about becoming a church planter there in the coming years. Many others have already committed to bringing teams back next summer and will continue to pray for Chicago throughout the year.

All throughout scripture we see God’s people burdened for cities that were in need of Him. In the book of Nehemiah we encounter a man who asked his King to return to Jerusalem, a city he once called home. He was so burdened for the people of Israel and for the city of Jerusalem that he wanted to make new again what was destroyed. The task was not easy and the burden was not light, but he was determined to obey and honor what God had called him to do.

This theme of being burdened for God’s cities continues today. God is calling his people back into the cities so that the gospel may go forth. Cities are considered the heart of our country and we need the people who live in them to have repentant hearts and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Please pray for Chicago and for students preparing to join the mission field there.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” Luke 10:2 (ESV).

Carrie Campbell is a teacher in Beardstown. She has served as coordinator for NAMB’s Generation Send summer missions program in Chicago for two years.

Kevin Ezell, left, president of the North American Mission Board, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board end a joint Church and Mission Sending Celebration by recognizing missionaries with a standing ovation at the June 17 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by John Swain/NAMB

Kevin Ezell, left, president of the North American Mission Board, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board end a joint Church and Mission Sending Celebration by recognizing missionaries with a standing ovation at the June 17 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by John Swain/NAMB

Columbus, Ohio | Meredith Flynn

A missionary “Sending Celebration” during the Southern Baptist Convention last week signaled a new, urgent day for SBC missions in North America and around the world. The vastness of lostness, said the leaders of the denomination’s mission boards, requires new thinking about getting missionaries on the field—and supporting them while they’re there.

That could mean sending out missionaries—students, retirees, and professionals— who are financially self-supported. Baptists who traditionally have focused on giving from the pew in order to support missionaries are now being called to go to the nations too.

The celebration in Columbus, Ohio, marked a shift from 20 years ago, when the commissioning might have featured flags of the world and missionaries in brightly colored international dress processing into the auditorium to “We’ve a Story to Tell the Nations.” But in Ohio, photos of the missionaries and families flashed up on large screens in the convention hall, with their home state, sending church, and a brief snapshot of the region where they’ll serve.

Across the room, the missionaries stood as their slides played, illuminated only by book-shaped lights fanned out in front of them.

The low-key, somber service hinted at the desperate spiritual need the missionaries will encounter here and abroad. In the Northeast U.S., said International Mission Board President David Platt, 82% of people don’t know Christ. In the western U.S., it’s 87%, and in Canada, 90%.

Those numbers are small compared to India, where 1 billion people are spiritually lost. Platt and Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, focused on the role of the local church during the sending celebration, urging congregations to consider their responsibility to take the gospel to the nations.

Platt also pointed to the possibility of new strategies for supporting missionaries on the field. In 2009, he said during his report prior to the celebration, the IMB had 5,600 missionaries serving around the world. The number is 4,700 now, and headed toward 4,200, due to the Board’s inability to financially support them.

“We are evaluating all of our structures and systems to discern how we can more efficiently and effectively use the resources Southern Baptists have entrusted to us,” he said. But we’ll always be limited, he added, as long as full financially supported missionaries are the only way we think about getting the gospel to the nations.

Throughout the IMB’s history, the Board has sent about 25,000 missionaries to serve around the world. “Which is awesome, but the reality is we need 25,000 now,” Platt said.

After a year in which the IMB operated $21 million in the red, a new plan is needed to send more people to more places and people groups. And everyday Christians play a key role in that plan, Platt said, painting a picture of students and retirees and professionals forming a network of support around missionaries and church planters around the world. Regular people with regular jobs, leveraging those jobs to go overseas.

“What if God has designed the globalization of today’s marketplace to open up opportunities for the spread of his gospel?” Platt asked.

The time is now, he urged during his final challenge to the audience in Columbus. “Not one of us is guaranteed today, much less tomorrow. So, brothers and sisters, let’s make it count. Let’s make our lives and our churches and this convention of churches count.”

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

 

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Chaplains on the ‘front lines’ of cultural change
The North American Mission Board has released updated guidelines for Southern Baptist military chaplains serving in the days after the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. The guidelines reiterate Southern Baptist doctrine, Baptist Press reports, and the expectation that SBC chaplains will not participate in or attend wedding ceremonies for gay members of the military.

The policies are already causing some to say Southern Baptist chaplains should step down from their posts, Southern Seminary President Al Mohler blogged Sept. 17. “Make no mistake, the moral revolution driven by those who demand the total normalization of homosexuality and same-sex relationships will not stop with the crisis over military chaplains,” Mohler wrote. “But at this moment, the chaplains are on the front lines of the great cultural and moral conflict of our times.” Read the full story here.

Iorg: America applauds immorality
The trouble today isn’t the rise of immorality, said Golden Gate Seminary President Jeff Iorg during the school’s fall convocation. “The troubling issue is the applause” that now accompanies it. After a summer that saw the U.S. Supreme Court abolish the Defense of Marriage Act, Iorg addressed students and faculty on the topic of “Ministry in the New Marriage Culture.”

“The last step of rejecting biblical morality is when people applaud or celebrate those who legitimize immoral practices,” he said. “We have reached that point in America.” Watch Iorg’s convocation address at GGBTS.edu.

Chicago tops FBI’s homicide list
Chicago had the highest number of murders of any city in 2012, according to FBI information released this month. At 500, the city’s homicide rate rose 20% above 2011, and was 81 more than New York City, which is three times as populous. So far in 2013 there have been fewer homicides, but Chicago has seen recent rashes of violence, including a Labor Day weekend during which eight people were killed and at least 25 more injured by gun violence.

Pastor Michael Allen, whose Uptown congregation was shaken by a drive-by shooting near the church steps in August, tweeted Sept. 17: “Praying against the spirit/culture of violence and that God would replace that with His Spirit of peace.”

Baby ‘Messiah’ keeps his name
Messiah McCullough
will keep his biblical first name, thanks to a ruling that overturned Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew’s earlier decision to require his parents to change it. Ballew ruled in August that the 8-month-old be named “Martin” instead of his given name, because the word Messiah is a title “that has only been earned by one person – and that one person is Jesus Christ.” The baby’s parents appealed her decision and this month won the right to name their child the 387th most popular baby name. Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

Mullins’ story told on screen
“Ragamuffin,” a new film detailing the life of Christian musician Rich Mullins, will premiere early next year. Best known for an authentic approach to his faith and for praise songs like “Awesome God,” Mullins died in a car crash in 1997. The biopic, produced by Green Color Films, has a trailer online at ragamuffinthemovie.com.