Archive for June, 2007

The new wave of mission work?

June 29, 2007

I’m working on a story about churches that are directly involved in overseas mission work. I’m especially focusing on the wave of Baptist churches who are figuring out how to send their members overseas for extended periods of time.

There’s no doubt Baptist churches are finding new and inventive ways of doing mission work. Many of the congregations are doing direct mission work above and beyond the ministry they are doing through traditional Baptist channels. Many of the ministers involved in this kind of mission work say churches are taking back the role of being the missionary-sending agent.

Mike Stroope, who has become a pseudo-spokesman for the new missions landscape, describes the new missions environment this way:

For the past ten years, I have been seriously thinking about and campaigning for the local church’s involvement in the worldwide mission of God. My conviction that the church should take the leading role in missions has not diminished over these years but has only increased as I have studied Scripture and considered the task of missions. Because God’s mission is to reconcile the world to Himself, the church must find its purpose and meaning in this mission. I am convinced more than ever that the local church must be more than a passive observer of this mission; it is meant to be at its frontlines. As the church prepares for mission, sends its people to the nations, and participates directly in the harvest that is to come, it is the church. Because it exists for God’s sending, the church has no option but to center its life and activity in His mission.

And yet, questions about how the local church’s mission activity will look and by what means the church is to go to the nations seem to be the overwhelming concern. I hear pastors and church leaders voice deep conviction that their churches must do missions, but in the end most of them stumble over how it is to be done and by what means. That which we are deeply committed to is left undone because our familiar and convenient mission paths have disappeared. So, we want to do missions, but we don’t know how or by what means. What is needed is a clear mission pathway, a vision of the way forward.

Powerful words. I’m curious about what you think.

What do you think of Stroope’s insight? What are the implications of a missions landscape where the church is the sending agent? Is this landscape the new paradigm for missions? Are Baptists struggling with how to do missions?

I’ll post my story on direct missions later this morning to hopefully encourage more dialogue.

A look into ministry in Kenya

June 28, 2007

I mentioned earlier University Baptist Church’s ministry in Kenya. Here are a couple videos they did during the church’s last trip there. The first could be difficult to watch.

The point of change

June 26, 2007

I have a theory about people who are passionately committed to following Christ. I believe those people can pinpoint the moment their life changed and they devoted themselves to God. The theory doesn’t always prove to be true, but most of the time it does.

My theory seems to work in the case of Scott McIntosh, the new pastor of North Orange Baptist Church in Orange. He recently shared his testimony in the Orange County News. Read the powerful story in its entirety, but here’s a glimpse into McIntosh’s tale:

McIntosh spent time as a bouncer in a bar and was also not above stealing from a family member to make ends meet.

“I spent two years living in my 1969 Ford Fairlane 500 from the time I was 17 until I turned 19,” he said. “I would bathe about once a week and I had an aunt that was hard of hearing that I would steal money from. I’d go over there and she’d be watching television with the volume as loud as it would go. And I’d go to her bedroom and take money right out of her purse.”

McIntosh said he’d buy a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap and go down and bathe in the lake.

“But when I was 21, I finally got my life on track,”he said.”A friend of mine invited me to Super Summer, a Christian camp in Dallas. They fed you and you had a place to sleep so I was all for going.”

But as he listened to the speakers at the camp, he realized something that he had been overlooking in his life for a very long time.

“It was the first time that I had ever heard that God loved me,” he said. “I’m not saying that the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that. I had just never paid attention or listened when I was growing up.”

McIntosh then went back to Lanier High School, at age 21, and finally got the last credit he needed to graduate.

“I know firsthand that the number one thing that gets people turned off to life is hopelessness,” he said.”But with the Lord, I finally had something to live for.”

This summer, hundreds of kids are attending Super Summer. God will use the event to changes many of the participants lives forever. Please pray for the students and leaders of Super Summer.

Baptists taking unique immigration ministry nationwide

June 25, 2007

The Baptist General Convention of Texas and Buckner International are partnering for the first nationwide effort for church-based ministry to help immigrants address their citizenship issues. This is a ground-up approach to ministering to immigrants across the country, empowering congregations to seek government accreditation for immigration centers.

Here’s the official release:

AUSTIN, Texas – The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) and Buckner International are partnering to create the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) – the first nationwide effort for local church-based ministry to help immigrants become U.S. citizens.

The two groups are coming together to help congregations across the country find the training they need to start government-accredited immigration centers to help individuals deal with their citizenship issues.

ISAAC helps churches and leaders gain accreditation from the U.S. government. Accreditation enables churches to provide immigrants with assistance in the preparation of immigration forms and under certain circumstances, represent them in immigration court.

“The church has a biblical mandate to speak up on behalf of the alien and stranger in this country,” said Suzii Paynter, director of the BGCT Christian Life Commission. “We believe the best way to do this is through the proper legal channels set forth by the United States.

The announcement was made today during the Convención Bautista Hispana de Texas (Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas), the largest gathering of Hispanic Baptists in the United States.

Services offered through ISAAC include:

·         Assistance in obtaining basic immigration law training

·         Clergy citizenship assistance

·         Immigration ministry center development

·         Education and information for churches

Albert Reyes, president of Buckner Children and Family Services, believes assisting immigrants helps his organization fulfill its mission of improving the lives of at-risk children and families.

“Immigrant families face tremendous challenges that put stress on their homes,” Reyes said. “This ministry helps immigrant families stay together and strengthen their homes for children.”

Reyes added that local churches are the key to the success and growth of ISAAC. “We have more than 5,500 Texas Baptist churches. That makes our convention one of the largest networks in the state and gives us direct access to people who need this ministry.”

ISAAC is the expansion of the BGCT’s immigration ministry efforts. Through the Baptist Immigration Services Network, the convention was helping seven churches seek government accreditation to start immigration centers and has answered questions for churches in Florida, New York, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Two Texas Baptist congregations have immigration centers – one in McKinney and one in San Antonio.

ISAAC will continue to assist those churches connected with BISN.

Churches and individuals wanting more information about the program can call 888-244-9400 and ask for immigration services.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas is the largest state Baptist convention in the country and the largest non-Catholic Christian group in the state. More than 5,600 congregations with a total membership of 2.3 million people are affiliated with it.

Buckner International is a globally oriented ministry to orphans and at-risk children that responds to children in need through a global humanitarian aid program, volunteer missions opportunities, community enrichment and prevention programs, an international network of residential, foster care and transitional ministries, domestic and international adoption, and support programs for children living in orphanages in other countries.

Bicycles, sumimasen and pizza.

June 21, 2007

man on bike
Bicycles. One thing I’ve noticed in Japan is that it seems almost everyone rides a bicycle. Older men ride bikes. Young moms ride with their child sitting in a basket. Older women ride wearing white gloves and hats to protect their skin from the sun. Businessmen in shirts and ties ride. An interesting insight to the Japanese lifestyle. Many of the people here don’t drive cars but instead use bikes, trains and the subway to get around. And, instead of parking lots filled with cars. You’ll see them filled with bicycles-hundreds of them. 

Although we didn’t ride bicycles in Japan, the modes of transportation and the diets sure made us thing about what might be best for our health. That is until we paid $10 to travel by train across Tokyo to meet with Japanese Baptist Convention Executive Secretary Makoto Kato. We heard how JBC is working on the Asian mission field, including supporting three missionaries – one in Singapore, one in Thailand and one in Rwanda. The convention, you see, hosted us for lunch. I think most of the BGCT staff including trip leader Charlie Singleton, Andre Punch, Roy Cotton, Rex Campbell and myself found the Pizza Hut Pizza was one of the best we’d had in years. 

JBC currently has nearly 300 churches who are members and more than 55 missions. In 1947, the Convention had only 16 churches. I had arranged an interview with Kato and he shared his sentiments on the Texas Gospel Choir’s performance in Japan. He was at last night’s concert. He was very excited about the opportunity to reach nonbelievers through Gospel music. He believes the choirs are making an impact in softening hearts of nonbelievers so they may accept God in their lives. He asks for your prayers as the Convention moves to broaden its outreach efforts in a population that has less than 1% Christians and its missions work.

A surprise companion joined us on the trip to the JBC — 21-year-old Amanda Hoshino, a Texan recently married who felt a call to serve in Japan. This is her fourth time in Japan, and made a short mission trip here in 2005 coordinated by Go Now Missions. She shared her experiences and helped us better understand the culture and the people.

In fact, she stold us one little word  – sumimasen — could make our visit here a little easier. It can mean “thank you” or “I’m sorry.” We have had many opportunities for that.   

Texas Voices of Praise Choir touches the lives of 500 in Japan

June 20, 2007

Here are a couple of photos of the sold-out concert near Tokyo. The first is the crowd and the second is Douglas Edwards singing O Happy Day in Japan concert.

Japanese crowd at Texas Baptist Choir Trip

Douglas Edwards - Texas Baptist Japan Choir Trip

Texas Baptist gospel choir touches 500 in Japan

June 20, 2007

Music is proving to be the universal language as Texas Baptists from 10 African American churches performed for a crowd of 500 Japanese people at a concert hall near Toyko June 20. You could see the Japanese people connecting with the music by the Texas Voices of Praise Choir and even singing along with the lyrics. 

We had a chance to see how the young people are embracing gospel music. Many of the fans sang English as various Christian groups entertained and presented their testimonies in song. Several Japanese choirs joined the Texas Baptist group in concert.

Singing Oh Happy Day, members of the Texas Voices of Praise joined singers from the Chofu Minami Gospel Choir and Tokyo Voices of Praise in the grand finale. Most of the crowd was soon standing, clapping and singing in Engish with the choirs.Douglas Edwards of Minnehulla Baptist Church in Goliad sang solo and was later joined by his uncle, James Edwards.  James, and Lillie Williams of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Dickinson, actually wrote several songs the Texas choir performed.

Andrew Singleton, grandson of Charlie Singleton, Baptist General Convention of Texas Director of Affinity Ministries, gave his testimony and shared a little Christian rap music.  

A television crew from Christian Global Network taped the concert and interviewed Yutaka Takarada, pastor of Japanese Baptist Church of North Texas, who coordinated the trip with the Japanese Baptist Convention. 

Texas Baptists travel to Japan on mission trip

June 19, 2007

Texas Baptist Choir arrives in Japan
After more than 15 hours on an airplane flight to Tokyo, and with almost no sleep in the past 24 hours, it is truly amazing to how a group of about 20 African American singers are alert and ready to share their faith overseas. Choir members left Dallas around 8 a.m. June 18 and arrived at their Tokyo-area hotel around 4:30 p.m. June 19 (Japanese time) enjoying a short siteseeing trip from  Narita Airport to the Yokohama hotel. 

I am traveling with the group taking photographs and gathering interviews to share their stories for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Rex Campbell is doing the videography, part of which will be showcased at the BGCT Annual Meeting in October.

As unusual as it sounds, Gospel music has a huge following in Japan and the choir led by Charlie Singleton, BGCT director of African American ministries, plans at least four concerts as well as several workshops in Japan. The group is very enthusiastic as are the Japanese Baptist leaders who say they believe God will work through the members of the “Voice of Praise” choir who come from across the state of Texas. Choir members will share songs and testimonies, and have their first concert tomorrow night. More to come on this unique experience for Christ. 

‘We’re in the biggest prison in the world’

June 18, 2007

A church building has been seized and services disrupted as a result of the fighting in Gaza, according to the Baptist World Alliance. A pastor called Gaza the “biggest prison in the world.” Here’s the complete BWA release: 

Washington, D.C. (BWA)–The fighting between Hamas and Fatah, the two major opposing forces in Gaza, has disrupted life for Christians in the Palestinian territory.

Rev. Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, had to call an abrupt end to a worship service on Sunday, June 10, due to heavy gunfire.

“Last Sunday night I was not able to finish my sermon because there was heavy shooting close to the church building while I was preaching. The people became very nervous and afraid, so we stopped the meeting,” he said in an email message to the Baptist World Alliance.

Both Fatah and Hamas are engaged in a civil war that has intensified over the past several weeks. Fatah, which previously controlled the Palestinian Authority government, became the main opposition party after it lost its majority to Hamas in the Palestinian parliament in a general election in January 2006. Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber, while Fatah won 43 seats. Since Hamas’ election victory, sharp infighting has occurred between the two groups, which recently escalated into full civil war, leading to many Palestinian deaths.

Massad reported that a Baptist family had its house bombed, slightly injuring one family member, and that the Gaza Baptist Church was commandeered by Palestinian Authority police as a lookout point. The building, which is six stories high and was dedicated in November 2006, was similarly seized and used during another major flare-up in February.

“In the last few days, the PA Police took our church building…. When they asked us, we said no, but they broke in,” Massad said in his email, dated June 15.  The Gaza Baptist Church building lies close to the main police station in Gaza. Massad reported that equipment, including a computer, was stolen after the building was seized.

BWA President David Coffey and General Secretary Denton Lotz assured Baptists in Gaza that the world is praying for peace and their safety. “We pray for peace in the Middle East and between Fatah and Hamas. With prophets of old we cry out, ‘O Lord, how long?'” And in an appeal to Baptists around the world to engage in more intense prayer, the BWA leaders urged, “Please pray and work for peace in the Middle East and around the world.”

“Most of the people in Gaza are watching and waiting to see what will happen. Nothing is clear. All the borders are closed. We are in the biggest prison in the world,” Massad, in bemoaning the precarious state of Palestinians in Gaza, said.

But despite the fighting and tensions, Massad reported that “We continue to experience the power of God’s presence, His peace and love at this time.”

Amazing and mysterious ways

June 14, 2007

Nearly two years ago this month, I went to Sri Lanka where I spent about a week with a team of Texas Baptist Men volunteers. The group was building a structure that would be used as a school to teach people new trades in the wake of the tsunami that devastated a fishing village. While there, I met Kenneth who volunteered with Texas Baptist Men. He introduced me to a family in Sri Lanka that he had gotten to know quite well, even to the point of being welcomed into their home for dinner. A relationship was formed, and he became friends with the family.

After Kenneth left Sri Lanka, he exchanged letters with the children in the family. They told him what they were doing. He would do the same. Each time he wrote a letter, he prayed that they would come to know Christ. He prayed that he would share Christ’s love to them in a way they would understand.

I was told today that those children are now involved in church.

God works in amazing and mysterious ways, bringing a Texan halfway around the globe so a pair of Sri Lankan children can come to know the gospel. I’m sure glad He does it.