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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.

NEWS | From Baptist Press

A Southern Baptist church planting resident at a Boston-area church found himself, along with his wife, in the crossfire of a police shootout early Friday morning, April 19, with one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Stephen McAlpin, who is nearing the end of a one-year North American Mission Board church planting internship with Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Mass., had just gone to bed around 12:40 a.m. when he and his wife heard something that sounded like fireworks.

By then officials had identified two brothers believed to be responsible for the double bombings that killed three and injured more than 170 people April 15, and Thursday night the suspects hijacked a car in Cambridge and drove to Watertown, where McAlpin lives, while being pursued by police.

A dramatic shootout commenced outside McAlpin’s home, resulting in the death of one of the suspects. The other remained on the loose Friday, causing the entire city of Boston and surrounding communities to be placed on lockdown as police searched for him door to door.

“The gunshots were continuing. We heard glass break. We started crawling into the kitchen of our home — me, Emily and our dog,” McAlpin recounted to NBC’s Brian Williams Friday afternoon. “As we were crawling, we saw a large flash like an explosion. We got underneath our kitchen table and continued to hear gunshots. They were much louder and felt closer.”

The couple could hear yelling and what sounded like another explosion.

“I’m a grown man, but at that point I was terrified and I was holding my wife there under the table and holding my dog, and it got real for us,” McAlpin said. “We realized that we could die.”

McAlpin told Williams via telephone that he and his wife are Christians and they prayed in those most dangerous moments that God would keep them safe.

“We prayed for God’s grace to protect us and protect our neighbors and just sat there,” he said.

They moved into their bathroom and huddled in the bathtub with their dog, and after about 30 minutes, police knocked on their door and showed them what had happened. Bullets had entered their living room. One was lodged in their television, which kept it from entering their bedroom on the other side of the wall. Another had hit a picture frame. Outside their SUV had sustained damage from a bullet.

Police were marking the evidence in and around their home, which included “many bullets and shells around the side of our house and also in the front,” McAlpin said.

“Since then we’ve just been staying in our kitchen, trying to stay safe. It’s overwhelming to us that all of this happened, but we just feel blessed to be safe,” the church planter said.

“We know how easily things could have gone poorly for us and we’re just thankful for God’s grace in protecting us. I don’t really know. It doesn’t feel real. You never think in your home when you’re safe and trying to sleep that bullets are going to come through and that explosions are going to happen.”

McAlpin also told Williams, “We’re in shock. I haven’t been able to go to sleep. We’re exhausted. But we’ve just been trying to share about what happened and even just tell people about the kind of hope that we’ve found in God during this really dark time.”

The couple has plans to move to Los Angeles to plant a church when the internship in Boston is over. McAlpin said they’re trying to process what happened overnight and react as they should as Christians.

“[We’re trying to] love our own neighbors here and look at this as an opportunity to speak out of our experience to them,” he said, adding that as they sit in lockdown at home, he and his wife are praying for law enforcement officials and for Boston.

“We just want this to end. We want life to return to peace as best as it can, but I think a lot of people are going to be struggling with, ‘How do we go from this back to what we call normal life?'” McAlpin told Williams.

Stephen and Emily are from St. Louis, and he said on NBC that he moved to Boston to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he recently graduated with an M.Div.

“[I] have been working at a local church here called Hope Fellowship and they’re training me to learn how to start a church and to share God’s love with people,” McAlpin said.

“So that’s what we’re doing in the area for the year, and we’re just trying to — we love the city here and we love to be a part of the area,” he said. “Boston is normally such a strong and vibrant place to live and I think moving forward we hope that we can just keep loving people here and challenging people to share in our hope.”

As he closed the interview, Williams told McAlpin, “My hat’s off to you for the generosity of spirit that I’m hearing in your reaction after what you’ve been through last night.”

At one point Friday, McAlpin tweeted, “Thank you Jesus for giving us hope greater than the measly things of this world that we lost today.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/62112542″>CMD 2013 recap</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/ibsa”>IL Baptist State Association</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

A story is told every year around this time, about a little girl from an IBSA church who knocked on the door of a crisis pregnancy center one Saturday in March. She wasn’t alone; bolstered by several others her age, she answered the question, “Who is it?” with a bold proclamation:

“We’re missionaries!”

It was Children’s Ministry Day, and the young missionary was delivering handmade blankets to mothers and babies in need.

Hundreds of kid took up her rallying cry in mid-March, as the third annual IBSA Children’s Ministry Day sent 900 volunteers into five communities. At the Mt. Vernon site, IBSA’s Rex Alexander told the story to help motivate more than 200 kids who gathered at Park Avenue Baptist Church before scattering to their ministry sites.

“The church is often guilty of overlooking children when it comes to mission action,” Alexander said later. “We send youth and adults on mission trips, but we limit mission involvement with children to teaching ‘about’ missions.

“Our kids are very capable of serving the Lord outside the walls of their church and having an impact on their world.”

Children’s Ministry Day is an Illinois expression of a nationwide initiative created by Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). Mark Emerson, IBSA’s associate executive director for missions, has let the statewide project from the beginning, when it started in 2011 with several projects in the Springfield area. Children’s Ministry Day expanded to three last year, and this year, host associations coordinated various projects in five cities – Bourbonnais, Carbondale, Mt. Vernon, Springfield and Troy.

A total of 903 volunteers, including kids, their leaders and host site helpers, served at the most recent event, a 25% increase over last year. The number of churches represented also increased, from 50 to 64.

For more about Children’s Ministry Day, see the upcoming issue of the Illinois Baptist, online Friday at ibonline.IBSA.org.

Other news:

Alabama cop turns over badge
But Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy did so willingly. While speaking at First Baptist Church as part of the 13th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama, Murphy (right in photo) gave his badge to U.S. Rep. John Lewis (left) and apologized to him on behalf of the police department, Baptist Press reports. The Georgia Congressman and long-time Civil Rights activist was beaten along with other Freedom Riders at a Montgomery bus station in 1961, while Montgomery police stood down. “He us my hero,” Murphy said of Lewis. Read the full story at BPnews.net.

NAMB sends Bibles to every church
The North American Mission Board will send this spring a case of New Testaments to every Southern Baptist and Canadian National Baptist church. “If your church hasn’t been out in your community sharing Christ in a while, we think these Bibles are a great tool for outreach,” said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. The New Testaments are part of NAMB’s vision to see every Christian sharing the Gospel by 2020, and should arrive in churches by early April. Read more at BPnews.net.

Tomlin gives spotlight to God
On any given Sunday, worship artist Chris Tomlin’s songs are sung in at least 60,000 churches. And it could be as many as 120,000, estimates Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI). In a recent CNN interview, Tomlin said he likes stepping back from the microphone during his concerts so he can listen to others worship. “It’s about a greater name than my name,” he told CNN. “My name is on the ticket, but this is about a greater name.” Read more at CNN’s belief blog.

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.