Friday
Jul182014

Arkansas Outdoor Church pastor leads by example in reaching sportsmen

Scottie Johnson (center), pastor and church planter of Outdoor Church of Arkansas in Conway, and wife Allyce, chat with members during a potluck supper held prior to their service. The church officially launched April 15. Photo by Caleb Yarbrough. Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News 

CONWAY – An Arkansas Baptist church plant, led by a pastor who could pass for a cast member on the hit reality show "Duck Dynasty," is seeking to reach people for Jesus Christ by appealing to their love of hunting and fishing.

A 2011 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 1.3 million people hunted, fished or participated in wildlife watching in 2011 -– spending nearly $2 billion on wildlife recreation in Arkansas.

The 1.3 million individuals mentioned in the survey included both residents of Arkansas and non-residents, with the vast majority being residents of the state.

All of these statistics point out that in Arkansas –- a mostly rural state with a population of just under 3 million -– easily more than half of the state's population either hunts, fishes or spends time participating in wildlife-related activities. 

JohnsonFor Scottie Johnson, Arkansas Baptist State Convention church planter and pastor of Outdoor Church of Arkansas in Conway, the need for a church to reach one of the state's largest demographics is obvious.

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Wednesday
May142014

Shows uses sports as ‘Crusader’ for Christ  

Stacey Hamby
Special to the ABN

Bobby Shows today outside Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo.HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. – Growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s, Bobby Shows of Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo., never could have dreamed God would use his love of sports to spread the gospel throughout the nation and the world. Nor could he have dreamed he would have been part of a landmark basketball game that would help pave the way for racial integration in college sports. Shows is a former staff member of Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock.

‘New ball game’

Shows, at 6’7, was an athletic standout in high school and during his freshman year at Mississippi State. But as a sophomore, he was benched. Devastated, he blamed God and his coach and anyone around him. “I’d get home and cry like a baby because I couldn’t play,” Shows said. “My knees began to give out on me. As I’ve looked back, I realize God was trying to talk to me.”

 

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Thursday
Feb132014

Documentary examines True Love Waits

NASHVILLE (BP) – After 20 years and millions of pledge cards, has True Love Waits had a positive impact and does it still matter?

A new documentary by LifeWay Films examines the history and future of True Love Waits. The international purity movement captured the national conversation in 1994 by covering the National Mall with cards from teenagers promising to remain sexually pure.

The documentary "True Love Waits: The Complicated Struggle for Sexual Purity," traces the story from the beginning to the present day relaunch, including the lives of individuals involved. Scott Mills, executive producer of the movie and manager of LifeWay Films, said the documentary unflinchingly deals with the reality of what began as an idea sketched on a napkin and exploded as an international movement.

"Millions of teenagers of the past two decades have made commitments to stay pure," Mills said. "Many have kept those commitments and at the same time many have struggled."

"We knew from the beginning we wanted to address the criticisms as well as the successes of the True Love Waits movement," Travis Hawkins, documentary director, said. "We knew viewers would see through any spin we put on the story. We weren't afraid to have an honest conversation."

The documentary, available on DVD Feb. 15, goes back to the cultural climate before True Love Waits. Many adults in America had given up hope that teenagers could refrain from sex, according to Richard Ross, a TLW co-founder.

"It was as if the big powerful people, the people that are smart, the people that are knowledgeable, are saying teenagers are out of control," Ross said.

In the midst of this environment, Ross and Jimmy Hester, then director of student ministry at LifeWay, created True Love Waits. Immediately, they saw it take off with students at Ross' church, Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory, Tenn.

It began to garner national headlines and amazement from many in the media. "They couldn't believe students would stand up and make statements about their beliefs about abstinence," Hester said.

To practically measure the success of TLW, Ross points to an unbroken increase in teenage sexuality from 1973 to 1993, after which it plateaued and declined for 20 years.

Hawkins said, "At the outset, I confess I thought of True Love Waits as dated and kind of irrelevant. I had no idea the kind of impact it did have."

The film also documents True Love Waits' impact in nations ravaged with AIDS.

"Before True Love Waits came to Uganda, one out of three adults was dying of AIDS," Ross said. "After True Love Waits, it's about one out of 10 or one out of 11, and the statistics are getting better by the day."

In the U.S., Susan Bohannon became a teenage spokesperson for the movement, appearing on national television shows and newspapers. At college, she struggled under the pressure of being one of the poster children for teenage virginity.

"When we conducted our initial interview with her, it was clear to me there was more to her story, but she was reluctant to share it," Hawkins said. "After a few conversations, Susan agreed to share the rest of her story. It took a lot of bravery on her part. Susan really illustrates how complicated the issue of sexual purity is."

Succumbing to the peer pressure and mocking of those around her, Bohannon had sex in college. She then felt emotionally numb and distant from God, she said.

"I felt very shameful about even trying to talk to Him or sincerely worshipping because I knew that I was so far away," she recalled, "but I wasn't sure how to get back."

To Clayton King, author of the curriculum relaunching True Love Waits, Bohannon's story exemplifies the need to return the movement to one focused on the purity found in Christ and how that plays itself out.

"I want people to know they are pure because Jesus purified them from sin, not because they have perfect behavior and have never had intercourse or looked at porn," King said. "The good news is that temptation, lust, porn, sex, shame and guilt are no match for the grace that Jesus offers us."

That resonated with Bohannon. "The message of True Love Waits is not about being a good person or being good or doing good things," she said. "The message of True Love Waits is about true love and no one displays true love better than Christ himself."

Mills hopes viewers of the documentary will be "challenged to talk to their kids about sex." He also would like to see it "build within students a desire to follow Jesus and recognize purity as a result of that relationship."

The time is right for the documentary and the message it proclaims, Hawkins said.

"Our students are facing greater challenges to their sexual purity than ever before," he said. "There's a lot of guilt and shame involved for those who have 'messed up.' It's an extremely personal issue, but it's got to be addressed."

While DVDs are available for pre-orders at LifeWay.com, customers can download a digital version now. For more information and to view a trailer for the film, visitLifeWay.com/TrueLoveWaitsFilm.

Thursday
Jan232014

How 'not' to do missions

Ramsey (top left)

Many churches and individuals across Arkansas recognize God’s call to reach the world for Christ, however, oftentimes acting on those convictions can be daunting. Eric Ramsey, president of Tom Cox World Ministries (TCWM) in Mountainburg, has some tips on “how not to do missions” which shed light and provide strategies for how you and your church can better execute the mission of God at home and across the globe.

1. The focal point is on the 'mission trip' or preconceived ideas

Ramsey said one of the biggest mistakes churches make when doing mission work is focusing too much on their preconceived goals and what they want to accomplish. Mission work is about reaching people with the message of Christ, and therefore, your church must focus on learning about the people that you are trying to reach and finding effective ways to do so, even if that means changing your original plans or tactics.

“Anytime the focus is ‘the mission trip’ or what you want to do it is not going to be a good experience. We have to always begin with, ‘Who are the people that we are wanting to impact with the gospel? What do they believe? What is their culture? What are their needs? What is it that we can provide to meet those needs and in meeting those needs take the gospel?’” said Ramsey.

2. Making ‘rice Christians’

While Christians should feel compassionate towards people who are poor and hungry, sometimes meeting physical needs can cause people to lose sight of the more important gospel message, which the action was meant to convey.

“We have to lead with the gospel. We cannot lead with medicine; we cannot lead with food … we have to lead with the gospel. And take medicine as we go, and take food as we go and be sure that the work that we do and the churches that we plant are reproducible in the culture,” said Ramsey.

3. Not making 'the Church' reproducible in the culture

“If we plant churches in such a way that those people in those cultures can’t reproduce ‘church’ in that culture the way that we planted it then there is no way that a church planting movement can happen,” said Ramsey.

“It is important to define what church looks like for that context. … As we make disciples we should let church emerge from gathering those disciples. Let them express their Christianity in a biblical way, but in a culturally appropriate way. And it is going to look much different than it looks in our culture.”

Ramsey said too many churches have preconceived ideas of what they want to do rather than attempting to convey the message that God has given them. He said the vast majority of Christians in the west struggle with removing themselves from their cultural religious mindset when on mission in foreign places, whether at home or abroad.

4. Not prayerfully considering where God is leading and preparing accordingly

Instead of deciding on a place that your church wants to serve, Ramsey recommends that churches “prayerfully consider” where God is calling them to serve. Once a church decides they are called to serve in a specific place Ramsey said that they should then do everything in their power to learn about the people and culture of the place that they feel called to go.

“Pray for that people group, learn about that people group, do all you can to try to determine what you can bring to the table what those people need and develop a strategy to take the gospel to them,” said Ramsey.

“Missions that does not include the communication of the gospel and the planting of churches is not missions,” he said.

Monday
Jan132014

Smartphones join fight to save babies

Brian Fisher (standing), co-founder of Online For Life (OFL), and Tim Gerwing, OFL vice president of technology, discuss demographics in their office in Frisco, Texas. In 2007 Fisher and a co-worker at Coral Ridge Ministries in Florida toyed with the idea of using the Internet and social media to direct women from abortion clinics to CPCs. On June 21, 2010, the first OFL baby was rescued and the number is growing daily. Photo by Rick Linthicum/Southern Baptist TexanBonnie Pritchett
Southern Baptist Texan

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) – "OnlineForLife: Center TX02 is speaking with someone considering abortion. Will you pray?"

The notification popped up on an iPhone and "Yes" is tapped, adding another intercessor in behalf of an unknown woman seeking counsel at an unknown Texas crisis pregnancy center. That the woman was even speaking with a life-affirming counselor can be credited to a simple yet underutilized tool in the pro-life movement: Marketing.

Attracting women to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) often requires a personal touch. A woman facing a difficult pregnancy may confide in a friend or family member. The prayers of a sidewalk counselor may be the last words a woman hears before entering an abortion clinic. But what if there were a way to direct a woman to a CPC before she leaves her home and simultaneously rally a national network of partners to pray for her?

"We're business guys, and we test things so we can maximize the number of babies we save," said Brian Fisher, co-founder of Online For Life (OFL), a pro-life nonprofit business.

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