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Racial Reconciliation

Most Protestant senior pastors say their church is open to hearing about racial reconciliation.

But few say church leaders are clamoring to hear more about it.

And pastors seem to prefer personal relationships and prayer when it comes to addressing matters of race.

Those are among the findings of a new study about pastors, churches and racial reconciliation from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors, found little pushback against or demand for sermons on racial reconciliation in their churches, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Most pastors appear to be taking a leadership role in encouraging racial reconciliation,” said McConnell. “Nine in 10 pastors say they recently have done something to encourage racial reconciliation. A majority has been socializing with other races and ethnicities and have led prayer on racial reconciliation, but less than a third have addressed economic inequity or publicly lamented injustice.”

Mixed feelings about racial reconciliation

Researchers found most pastors (90 percent) say their church would welcome a sermon on racial reconciliation. Seven percent disagree, while three percent aren’t sure.

While 45 percent have preached on racial reconciliation in the last three months, few pastors have been criticized for speaking…

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Teresa’s Club was a staple along Highway 80 for 25 years until the owner, Teresa Fears, met Jesus Christ through friendships with members of Mobberly Baptist Church.

Afterward, it was Fears’ idea to close down her adult club in Longview, Texas.

The Mobberly “church ladies,” as Teresa calls them, have changed her life. And she has changed their lives in sharing the Gospel.

Mobberly’s involvement with Fears began more than three years ago when worship team member Laney Wootten began praying about the club.

“The Lord made it clear that I was not just to pray but to do something,” Wootten said. She searched the club’s Facebook page and was surprised that the owner was a woman with a passion for helping special needs children.

Fears accepted Wootten’s friend request and the two began messaging on Facebook. Wooten, the parent of an autistic son, found common ground with Fears, who regularly volunteered at the Truman W. Smith Children’s Care Center for medically fragile children…

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It all started in a Facebook community group. It could’ve ended there but something happened that changed everything.

“The Facebook group was a place where people in our part of town share things,” Nathan Creitz, pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, Queens, New York, recounted, “and somebody on there shared a link and said something like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening in our neighborhood.'” Creitz clicked on it — and immediately wished he hadn’t.

“It was a picture of scantily clad Asian girls from a website that often advertises places that are fronts for human trafficking, places like massage parlors,” he said. “I was about to click away — except for the fact that I realized I recognized one of the girls.”

And he recognized the place — it was a massage parlor right next to the church.

“When we were giving out coats in front of the church a month or two before, as the employees of the massage parlor came, this girl was there, and it was basically her first day on the job,” Creitz said. “She came over and got a hat and coat, and some…

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It’s not the conventional road to the pastorate.

“I wouldn’t wish story on anyone, but I wouldn’t change anything about it, either,” said Adam Wiggins, campus pastor of The Creek, a new campus of First Baptist Church of Orange Park, Fla., which is just outside of Jacksonville.

Wiggins’ path to the pulpit has been complicated, but it has ultimately landed him on staff with FBC Orange Park leading the church’s newest effort to minister to an unreached community in Middleburg.

But his most notable stops, and the ones that set him apart from so many other pastors, are the ones in prison.

As a young child, Wiggins learned a lot about alcohol and drugs from his father, who was addicted to both, yet still managed to hold down a job and provide for his family. Wiggins didn’t see enough negatives to dissuade him from drinking and using drugs at a young age, and the consequences of that lifestyle led to a few arrests and…

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doneenough

By Bob Smietana

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group.

And most worshipers like it that way.

Two-thirds of American churchgoers (67 percent) say their church has done enough to become racially diverse.

And less than half think their church should become more diverse.

Those are among the findings of a study of church segregation by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Researchers surveyed 994 churchgoers—who attend worship at least at holidays or more often—about race and the church. They also surveyed 1,000 Americans as well as 1,000 Protestant senior pastors.

needstobecomemoreChurchgoers, researchers found, are lukewarm about diversity. More than half (53 percent) disagree with the statement, “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.” Four in 10 agree.

Researchers also found churchgoers who oppose more diversity do so with gusto. A third (33 percent) strongly disagree that their church needs to be more diverse. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) felt strongly their church was doing enough.

Evangelicals (71 percent) are most likely to say their church is diverse enough,…

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by Tom Strode

The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity has announced a summit on race relations in the wake of grand jury decisions regarding police killings of black men that have provoked widespread protests and a nationwide discussion.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will hold a leadership summit with the theme “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” March 26-27 in Nashville, it announced Thursday (Dec. 11). The ERLC previously had announced the topic of its second annual leadership summit on the same dates would be developing a pro-life ethic but changed the topic in response to recent events.

On Dec. 3, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner despite a widely viewed video of the incident. The failure to indict also occurred in spite of a ruling by the New York City medical examiner’s office that Garner’s death was a homicide.

That decision in a New York City borough followed by only nine days a St. Louis County grand jury’s refusal to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. No incriminating video existed of Brown’s August death in…

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Mental HealthEvangelical leaders are increasingly speaking out about mental health issues. Many have begun to open up about their own bouts with depression or a family member’s illness.

Last month, The New York Times ran a front page story about pastors breaking the longtime silence around mental illness. The Times story led with the account of Southern Baptist pastor Matt Brogli receiving an anonymous phone call from a suicidal man.

Brogli, pastor of Eagle Springs Baptist Church in Eagle Springs, N.C., was new to the pastorate and admittedly ill-prepared for the exchange. Fortunately, he was able to talk the man out of taking his own life. Two years later, Brogli is the unofficial mental health counselor for the rural community of Eagle Springs.

The Times article cited a study by LifeWay Research, which revealed 59 percent of Protestant pastors have counseled someone who was later diagnosed with a mental illness. Nearly a quarter of pastors say they, too, have experienced some kind of mental illness.

In November, LifeWay Research in partnership with Focus on the Family released the findings of a study on faith and mental illness. The study included surveys of senior Protestant pastors,…

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David PlattDavid Platt was elected president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board today (Aug. 27) by board trustees, meeting at the IMB’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.

Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a Southern Baptist congregation in Birmingham, Ala., will take office effective immediately as president of the 169-year-old organization, the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 4,800 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve worldwide.

Platt succeeds former missionary, pastor and Southern Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since March 2011. Elliff asked the agency’s trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor. Elliff and his wife Jeannie plan to return to their home state, Oklahoma.

The author of the bestselling books “Radical” and “Follow Me,” among others, Platt has been pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, which counts about 4,500 members, since 2006. He also founded and leads Radical, a ministry that exists to serve the church in accomplishing the mission of Christ. Radical provides resources that support disciple-making in local churches worldwide, organizing events and facilitating opportunities through multiple avenues, all aimed at…

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Helping Hands

It’s a moment many Christians have had to face: a family member’s announcement that he or she is gay.

Amid feelings of sorrow, guilt, fear and anger that families may experience surrounding such an announcement, biblical counseling experts say believers must have hope and realize that Jesus always changes those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

The “lie” that “change is impossible” for people who experience same-sex attraction “is an offense against the Gospel because change is Jesus’ gig,” Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press. “We need to be infusing people with hope. We need to be infusing them with the deep conviction that Jesus has been changing people for 2,000 years and He will change you if you have faith in Him.”

Lambert; John Babler, associate professor of counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested several ways Christians can help family members struggling with same-sex attraction.

Develop a culture of honesty where family members can confess their sins and ask for help.

“In view of the mercy of God, if there is…

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Ukraine Man

KIEV, Ukraine (BP) — Tensions rose to dangerous levels as Russian forces occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in late February, but Ukrainian Baptists aren’t slowing down their ministry to a nation battered by months of internal crisis.

In fact, they’re picking up the pace.

“The response from the churches has been fantastic,” said IMB worker Shannon Ford, who lives in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev, during a March 4 interview. “It really has been a time for prayer — not simply saying we’re going to pray, but actually going and being seen and guiding other people to pray,” even in the far east near the Russian border.

IMB personnel are serving right beside them.

“We’re able to do our ministry,” Ford insisted. “We have a family in right where the Russian fleet is parked. I talked to them this morning, and they were telling me all the different ministry things they did last week and what they’re planning this week. So despite all the uneasiness and the frightening pictures from the zoom lens of the media, our personnel and our national brothers and sisters are still doing their job, still having outreach…

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Ukraine Violence

KIEV, Ukraine (BP) — Scripture portions helped provide a flicker of faith as violence escalated in Ukraine on Feb. 18. At least 25 were killed and hundreds injured as government forces acted to forcibly remove protesters from Kiev’s Independence Square. The dead include civilians and police officers.

The Interior Ministry demanded that protesters leave the square by 8 p.m. Tuesday. When the deadline passed, riot police dismantled barricades with the help of armored vehicles, water cannons and stun grenades.

Some protesters responded by throwing Molotov cocktails and paving stones dug up from the streets.

But churches near the mayhem responded differently.

“Thousands of Scripture portions have been distributed and the prayer tent on Independence Square is very active,” said International Mission Board worker Tim Johnson*, who was in close proximity to the violence Tuesday.

Many churches have been using a tent-based outreach in Independence Square to pray for individuals, serve hot tea, hand out tracts and share their faith during the three-month upheaval in Ukraine and its capital city, Kiev.

It is unclear what sparked the mid-February sudden rise in violence, with each side blaming the other. Protests began Nov. 21 when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych…

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Rick and PiersPastor Rick Warren spoke a line to CNN’s Piers Morgan that has resonated with people who, like him, have tried repeatedly to explain why they won’t change their stance to support same-sex marriage.

“I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society,” Warren, of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., told the host of “Piers Morgan Live.”

Warren appeared on the show amid a media blitz for his new book “The Daniel Plan” about getting healthy for the glory of God, but his stand for biblical marriage continues to draw attention.

A discussion of Warren’s admiration of Pope Francis turned to same-sex marriage when Morgan asked whether Warren’s views had evolved during the two years since the two discussed the issue on air.

“Have you moved at all now? Are you recognizing that there is this seemingly unstoppable movement?” Morgan asked Warren during the show that aired Dec. 6.

Warren responded, “Well, I don’t get to change what God says is right and what God says is wrong. And I think God is real clear that all sex outside of marriage is wrong. But the issue…

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