BP Ledger, Sept. 23 edition
EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
World News Service (2 items)
The crazy thing a pastor did to engage Millennials: he talked to them
By Scott Barkley
AUSTELL, Ga. (BP) -- About a month and a half ago, studies and resulting stories spread across the Internet about how the Millennial generation was rejecting organized religion in increasing numbers. They're less religious. They're spiritual, but have little interest in organized bodies of worship, much less denominations.
This article isn't about how to reach those born between the early 1980s to early 2000s, but it is about how one pastor's engagement of that group could become a model of discipleship.
I first contacted Michael Stovall, pastor at Ewing Road Baptist Church in Austell, during the summer for a follow-up article about the End It movement, which seeks to fight human trafficking and is primarily energized through the efforts of Millennials. Ewing Road was part of a large social media push on April 9 to inform the general public on the prevalence of modern-day slavery. The genesis for Stovall and Ewing Road's involvement, though, came the previous fall, and didn't necessarily focus on engaging Millennials.
"I had become concerned about our church's lack of leadership development," Stovall said. "I was deeply concerned about the lack of members taking leadership roles to develop, implement and lead ministries that impact the community and beyond."
To increase Kingdom influence, leadership development is essential, he reasoned. Stovall formed his thoughts into a blog post at MichaelStovall.com. A believer eager to serve is typically plugged into an existing ministry at the church, he wrote. What's missing is to ask him or her a key question: What are you passionate about?
Fast-forward a little more than two months. Stovall has bought lunch for a group of young people, most of them in their early 20s, and waiting to hear their answer to that very question.
"I thanked them for spending the time with me, promised to listen, and then sat back and enjoyed hearing from them. I engaged them with a few questions for clarification along the way, but mostly it was them talking. I had no agenda except to learn about them," he remembers.
Many in the group had just attended a conference in Atlanta that keyed on the spread of modern-day slavery. This was their passion and their fight.
"I told them I wanted to invest in them and help develop their leadership in the church to specifically address the issues that they were passionate about," Stovall says. "I gave them specific instructions/steps about what to do in the days and weeks after our lunch and how I would respond to work with them."
Two, in particular, took the challenge. Taylor Morris, 23, and his fiancé Wimberley Larkey, 22, contacted Stovall a few days later to schedule a meeting and go over their ideas. At that meeting the three decided to focus on building awareness of human trafficking and action steps for the church to take.
Being involved while staying out of the way was important for Stovall.
"I try to communicate a clear plan of action with a clear set of expectations and a clear list of my commitments to them," he wrote to The Index in an email exchange. "This way we are working from the same page.
"Taylor and Wimberley have been incredible in their pursuit of what God
wanted them to do. And the church has bought into it as well. This has been a great source of encouragement to them and me that the church is looking to them as leaders and they are responding as leaders."
Meeting with the couple occasionally, a plan was drawn together to build awareness that started with two sermons from Stovall, the guest testimony of a director at a local rescue house during the worship service, an information table, donations to like-minded organizations, and a social media blitz.
The second step was involvement, as a dozen church members took part in the Wellspring Living 5K Run for One 5K in June. A couple of Sunday School classes also collected items for a local rescue house. The next step is a Disc Golf tournament Oct. 12 in Austell at the new course built specifically for such an outing. To keep the social media momentum going they've established a Facebook page and Twitter feed.
To build leaders, Stovall points out, you must define them. The formula for this is Gifts + Passions = Priorities.
"A leader at Ewing Road as a person who understands the church's mission and vision, has embraced it as their own, and is taking ownership/responsibility for leading ministry that moves the mission and vision forward. Not everyone will be this kind of a leader. I shared with the church at the first of this year that I believe God has already gifted our church with the spiritual gifts needed for the ministry He desires.
"My goal is not to try and come up with all the types of ministries we should endeavor to do. Rather, as pastor my desire is to learn what gifts and passions God has placed in the church and then work to develop leaders who will use their gifts and passions to lead in God's priorities."
Scott Barkley is production manager for The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Campbellsville Univ. hosts Salamanca at KHIPP event
By Kasey Ricketts, student news writer
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. -- The United States Constitution is one of the shortest documents, and that is why Dr. Paul E. Salamanca, Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky, believes it works so well.
Salamanca spoke at Campbellsville University's Kentucky Heartland Institute on Public Policy (KHIPP) "Constitution Day" Sept. 17 in the Banquet Hall of the Badgett Academic Support Center.
Salamanca believes the Constitution is a textual work that makes it so powerful.
"Americans like to be able to read things. They have the mindset of, 'I can read, let me read it, now I understand,'" Salamanca said to about 50 faculty, staff, students and community people at the session.
Many of today's political topics came up doing the discussion with the audience such as: Obama Care, Syria, gay rights and general welfare.
A student questioned how the president is supposed to please the people but also hold up the Constitution. Salamanca said, "The president took an oath to uphold the Constitution. He is there to annoy the people. But a good president will find a way to do both. At the end of the day, his duty is to do his job though."
When asked by a student in the audience if Salamanca thought the United States should take a clean piece of paper and rewrite the whole Constitution and if that is done would it change a lot.
Salamanca said he believed the Constitution "would be very close to the same as it is now. We'd get it right again."
When asked about the possibility of including any new amendments, Salamanca, who was law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Judge David Souter, said he did not think any would be added.
Salamanca said, "We, as a political culture, have certain habits in the way we constitute ourselves, habits that we can cultivate and attend to, or habits that we can let fall into atrophy."
The CU Student Government Association celebrated Constitution Day by having students go by the E. Bruce Heilman Student Complex and sign a "Constitution."
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,500 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master's degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.
Another foreign government attacks its own citizens
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WORLD News Service) -- When President Barack Obama made a case for possible airstrikes against Syria on Sept. 10, he cited the horrendous chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that according to his administration killed more than 1,400 Syrians, including hundreds of children.
"When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory," said Obama. "But these things happened."
More than a thousand miles south of Syria, a less-noticed set of horrifying things continue to happen: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has terrorized his own people for decades and continues a bombing campaign that's killed scores of citizens and displaced at least 200,000 people along the border between Sudan and South Sudan.
If doubts remain about whether Assad launched the Syrian chemical attack, Sudanese citizens watch their aggressors with their own eyes: Military planes drop payloads on villages, homes, churches, and crops across the region.
Some Sudanese live in caves and rocks, eating whatever nourishment they can scrounge. Others walk hundreds of miles to the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan—now home to more than 60,000 refugees.
The ongoing violence has led a Sudanese bishop to plead with Obama to remember Sudan. Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail wrote an open letter to the president on Sept. 6, asking for "prompt action to save those still alive." He added, "Our people feel as though the world has forgotten them."
Indeed, Obama's infamous "red line" in Syria raises thorny questions: Will the United States use its influence in other places government officials are attacking their own citizens? Are Sudanese bombs less abhorrent than Syrian gas?
For Bishop Elnail, the answer isn't abstract. The Sudanese minister witnessed decades of genocide in the Blue Nile, Darfur, and eastern Sudan.
When South Sudan declared its independence from northern Sudan in 2011, the separation brought more hostilities: The Sudanese government viewed many of its own citizens in the Nuba Mountains—including thousands of Christians—as loyal to South Sudan. In mid-2011, Sudanese military planes began bombing the region, and militias raided villages.
Elnail was in the United States when the attacks began, arriving in early 2011 for medical treatment. By mid-June, the Sudanese government had bombed his village in Kadugli.
In his letter to Obama, Elnail said the government and its militias "hit my house with heavy guns, and all valuables were taken or destroyed. They proceeded to burn the Diocesan offices and Diocesan Guest House in the same hour."
He described the fallout: "From that moment the church leaders and others scattered as displaced refugees in more than five countries. It pains me to remember many of the young men in my town who were killed in cold blood during the same week."
Since those attacks, Elnail has testified before Congress and the United Nations about the violence and suffering. He's also returned to his village. The bishop told Obama about a rocket attack on his village in June 2012: "We thought the mountain was falling on us. … Some people had to run to caves in the mountains."
Elnail's letter outlined ongoing attacks: "We continue to be bombed from the air daily. Bombs land on farms and schools, churches and mosques, clinics and markets. Innocent civilians, women and children, are killed carrying on their daily lives. Those who survive live in constant fear, and for two years they have lived in caves in the mountains."
Innocent bystanders—including children—continue to suffer. When I visited the Yida refugee camp last March, a rustic medical tent filled with children suffering from malnourishment and infections. Weeping mothers grieved over their inability to nurse their children. At least two babies died during my brief stay. (See "In the shadow of war" from the May 12, 2012, issue of WORLD magazine.
Children also suffer from the ground violence. The group Nuba Reports—led by an American and former aid worker from Samaritan's Purse—reported a grim incident less than two weeks before the Syria chemical attacks: A group of Sudanese children discovered an unexploded grenade in a remote village in the South Kordofan region. They picked it up. The grenade exploded, killing nine children and wounding five.
Elnail didn't ask Obama to consider air strikes in Sudan. But he did ask the president to publicly address the violence. Though Obama called genocide in Darfur "a stain on our souls" early in his first presidential campaign in 2007, he's spoken little of the ongoing violence in Sudan since his election.
As the president insists on some kind of intervention in Syria, Elnail said he hopes Obama will remember his earlier concerns about Sudan: "We remember your promises to the people of Sudan suffering these genocides and try not to lose hope."
Horses Bring Healing
RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (WORLD News Service) -- It started with a horse, an old house, and three acres of land. Leslie and Sidney Clark felt God wanted them to use it to tell others about the gospel, but they didn't know what that would look like.
On a visit to a nearby stable in 2006 Leslie saw a poster offering to train people in equine therapy. While she had been around horses most of her life, she had never worked with people with disabilities. Still she felt she had to find out more: The lessons were free but the facility offering the training was more than 100 miles from her house in rural Ridgeville, S.C. The organization, Rein and Shine, offered to cover Leslie's gas expense. She couldn't say no.
"I told God I didn't know how to do this," Leslie said. "If you want me to work with people with disabilities, I need to be trained."
For three years, Leslie made the 100-mile commute, spent hours studying every day, and worked with people with disabilities so that she and Sidney could open up their own horse therapy program. At the same time, the Clarks started a non-profit, Horses In Service (HIS) Ministries, that offered pony rides and presented the gospel at church and community events. When it came time for Leslie to take her certification test, members of a multiple sclerosis support group she had helped during her training told her they were praying for her.
She passed the test, but faced more challenges as she worked to expand the ministry's operations. While many in the M.S. support group decided to follow Leslie to her new therapy program, her house didn't have the accommodations to serve people with disabilities. She needed a riding ring, a wash rack to clean and groom the horses, and an office to hold small group classes in horsemanship. She also needed a bathroom: "We had people lined up at our front door to use our only bathroom."
Through prayer and faith, they formed partnerships with an at-risk youth program and a group home for troubled teens. Volunteers with building skills mentored the youths as together they tore down a donated barn and used the lumber to build an office-classroom with a bathroom. They also built a riding ring, wash rack, and a ramp for people with physical disabilities to mount a horse at level. Leslie said her responsibilities grew as well: Often she wrote letters to judges and lawyers on behalf of individual youths in the program prior to a hearing. Many of the 70 to 75 youth who worked on the project have professed faith in Christ.
They piloted their equine therapy program with three military families in 2010 and began accepting riders into the program in 2012. They now have seven horses, each named after a person in the Bible, with its own designated verse. When she introduces each horse, the student rider hears the gospel.
Volunteers help run the program, arriving early to pray, feed the horses, clean the stables, and warm up the animals before lessons begin. The equine therapy program has served 22 people so far.
By Leslie's estimate, nearly 300 have professed faith in Christ through the couple's church and community events, youth program, and equine therapy: "Sidney and I have learned about faith in God, total surrender, and obedience to his Word. We know that God is faithful, he is in control of every situation, and nothing is impossible for God."