SBC DIGEST: Baptist assoc. emphasis: new name, dates; Lisa Harper shares 'unlikely joy' in study of Job

by BP & LifeWay Staff, posted Monday, July 16, 2018 (one month ago)

In today's SBC Digest: Baptist associational emphasis has new name and dates on the SBC calendar; Lisa Harper shares "unlikely joy" in new LifeWay study of Job.

Associational emphasis, with new name, moves to October

Ray Gentry
BP file photo.
NASHVILLE (BP) -- News about associational missions was among the headlines during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas, except for one action by messengers of importance to the 1,100 Baptist associations across the country.

What made the news: A recommended title was unanimously approved by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders -- "associational mission strategist," or AMS -- to be considered by Baptist associations to supplant the title of "director of missions." The AMS designation was among an SBCAL study committee's recommendations to more accurately reflect the range of strategies being utilized by local and regional associations of Baptist churches.

Not garnering headlines, yet significant to Baptist associations, was a vote by messengers at the annual meeting to change the name and dates for the annual associational emphasis on the SBC Calendar of Activities.

The new name: Week of Prayer for Baptist Associations (formerly Associational Missions Emphasis).

The new dates will be the third week in October: for 2019, Oct. 20-26 (formerly in May).

The annual emphasis, said Ray Gentry, SBCAL executive director, underscores "the importance of cooperating together as sister churches to reach our local mission field and to pray for the association, its leaders and its ministries. … Southern Baptist missions cooperation and collaboration starts at home and goes forth to the ends of the earth."

In churches, the emphasis can highlight "what your association is doing to assist churches in advancing the Gospel -- whether church planting, mission trips and missions mobilization, church revitalization, school and community impact events, children's camps, church leadership development, etc.," Gentry, who also leads Georgia's Southside Baptist Network in McDonough, noted in comments emailed to Baptist Press.

Six years of undated resources, which can be utilized at any time of the year, can be accessed at www.ameresources.org through a partnership between the SBCAL and the North American Mission Board.

"There are themes, graphics, videos, sermon helps, bulletin inserts," Gentry said. The 2019 Week of Prayer for Baptist Associations theme is "Associations: Equipping Churches to Make and Mobilize Disciples," with next year's resources to be available on Dec. 1 of this year.

"The association is how Southern Baptist churches collaborate in their city/county/region to help one another in missional partnerships," Gentry said. "Associations assist pastors and churches in advancing the Gospel in a variety of ways, depending on their setting. Examples include, but are not limited to, providing a block party trailer for churches; pastors' conferences; leadership development for pastors, staff and church lay leaders; community impact ideas and assistance; associational mission trips and partnerships; and church planting and church revitalization helps, coaching, manpower and support."

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Lisa Harper shares 'unlikely joy' in new study of Job

Lisa Harper
lisaharper.net photo
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Bible teacher, author and speaker Lisa Harper was stirred to study Job after her daughter took a tumble down some stairs just before breakfast one morning.

Harper told the story to an audience of 9,000-plus women gathered in person and online for a release party for her newly published Bible study, "Job: A Story of Unlikely Joy" (LifeWay). Some 200 women attended the June 26 event at LifeWay Christian Resources' corporate headquarters in Nashville while thousands more watched online.

Harper recalled being home on a Saturday morning making pancakes for her daughter Missy, whom she adopted from Haiti several years ago.

Having called for Missy to come downstairs for breakfast, a few seconds later Harper heard a thud.

Missy had fallen down the stairs and as she wailed in pain, Harper began to panic and cry. It was in that moment she said she realized she doesn't handle pain well.

"The whole world is suffering," Harper told Christian recording artist Mandisa, who emceed the event. "As Christ followers, it's incumbent upon us to learn how to better deal with pain and suffering."

After Missy's tumble down the stairs, Harper spent a year studying the book of Job -- a man who suffered through the loss of his children, his livelihood and his home, as well as enduring physical affliction. The fruit of Harper's time spent pouring over this Old Testament book is a seven-session Bible study to help people discover the redemptive aspect of Job's suffering.

"When Lisa first shared her vision for this study, we were intrigued with her approach to this book of the Bible," said Faith Whatley, director of adult ministries for LifeWay Christian Resources.

"Most people would view this book as hard to study because it's impossible to comprehend the pain and loss Job experienced. Lisa's way of pulling out the unlikely joy in the chapters of Job will give women a fresh approach on how to think about suffering. They will be able to see God working through trials and will give them a deeper faith to tell others about His amazing love."

And it is through this deep love for Job, Harper said, that God saw fit to test this man of integrity.

"Right out of the gate, God says to the enemy, 'Have you considered my servant Job?'" she said. "God nominated Job for pain. … Because God knows the end of the story, He knows how Job will walk out of it."

Just as it is part of the human condition to experience pain and loss, Harper expects for the study to lead to spiritual growth -- as God intended.

"Some of the things we go through that are painful [happen] because of the fall [in the Garden of Eden]," she said. "Sometimes, in the course of redemptive history, God is going to allow pain -- or even cause it, like He did with Job -- to come into your life, but He's doing it for your good and for His glory."

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston, with reporting by Joy Allmond of LifeWay Christian Resources.
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