Monday, August 17, 2015

Latest Guatemala Training Conference Successful

by Brian Kaylor, Generational Engagement Team Leader

Two Missourians recently returned from Guatemala after leading the latest round of training sessions that are part of Churchnet’s partnership with Guatemalan Baptists. The two presenters were Gary Snowden, Churchnet’s Missional Collaboration Team Leader and Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit, and Noah Angel, Churchnet board member and pastor of Familia Cristiana Internacional in Jefferson City. Snowden, a former missionary in Argentina and Mexico, led two sessions (one on attitudes and characteristics of a discipler and one on having a balanced perspective on the neo-charismatic movement. Angel, a native of El Salvador, led three sessions on issues of biblical interpretation.

Snowden, who leads Churchnet’s side of the Guatemalan partnership, has helped with two training conferences a year since 2007. He has also participated with his church on medical missions trips. He stayed another week in July after the latest training conference to work with a team from his church and other congregations.


“This latest round of leadership training conferences for pastors and leaders in Guatemala was a tremendous blessing,” Snowden said. “We had 85 participants in total, and as always, they were extremely receptive to the contents that we shared. Noah Angel did an outstanding job with his three sessions on understanding and interpreting the scriptures correctly. It was a blessing for me to not have to worry about translation duties and to be able to concentrate on the content of his conferences.”

“Another special blessing was to hear a young leader share over a meal how much the books that he received in the previous two training events had helped him in his ministry,” Snowden added. “That conversation reinforced the fact that the beneficial effects of these conferences extend far beyond the two-day events themselves. The participants never fail either to express deep gratitude and appreciation to Churchnet for making these training events a possibility for them. All in all, it was another great time with our brothers and sisters in Guatemala.”

Angel, who participated in his first Churchnet training conference in Guatemala, called it a “wonderful trip!”

“I felt so welcome,” he said. “I loved and appreciated the opportunity to be in Guatemala.”

“Sometimes we don’t realize how much of a difference our ministry makes in people’s lives until you come down personally and witnesses yourself,” he added. “They all expressed their thankfulness for the opportunity to get together, get to know one another, the conferences, the books, but most of all the sense of unity and collaboration that has been developing among themselves.”

Otto Echeverria, president of the Convención de Iglesias Bautista de Guatemala (Convention of Baptist Churches in Guatemala) said each training conference “means a lot to all of us.”


“It gives us the opportunity to know more about God, about Christ, about the gospel, about church history, about strategies—how to make a better work in our communities,” he explained. “Also it has provided the pastors good books so we can have more resources to learn about Christ.”

“It’s a great moment for communion, for fellowship with others,” he added.

The next Churchnet training conference in Guatemala will likely be in January of 2016.


Note: To learn more about Churchnet’s partnership with Guatemalan Baptists, check out Churchnet’s February 2015 digital magazine online: http://joom.ag/pDHb. You can also contact Gary Snowden, Churchnet’s Missional Collaboration Team Leader, at gsnowden@churchnet.org or 888-420-2426, ext. 709.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Churches Should 'Like' the #

by Brian Kaylor

Technological shifts often spark new industries, trends and lifestyles. But they can also put other people out of business. The ‘Industrial Revolution’ transformed modern society with cheap, mass-produced goods, but drove many “old-fashioned” weavers and artisans to close their shops. The digital revolution and the explosion of social media similarly changes expectations for businesses, organizations and even churches.

Nathan Evans, a member of the Churchnet Board of Directors since 2011, believes churches need a social media presence today as much as they needed to be in the phone book in years past. Evans serves as managing director of Blue Duck Marketing, a consulting firm he founded with his wife, Amanda. Together they have helped several Baptist groups with marketing, management, and communication tasks.

Evans notes that a church website often serves as someone’s “first ‘visit’ to your congregation,” thus churches need to “take the time to concisely communicate the spirit (and ‘services’) of your church.”

Evans also sees the potential of social media to attract people, especially since churches need to communicate where people are.

“Every community is different, but Facebook (and others) can be an excellent tool for the church family,” he explained. “It’s also another potential source for ‘visits.’ Even the simplest Facebook page can be helpful.”

Zach Dawes, Jr., managing editor for EthicsDaily.com (the news arm of the Baptist Center for Ethics), agrees that churches need to find ways to engage on social media. His job at EthicsDaily.com, a ministry Churchnet partners with and supports, includes leading the organization’s social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and elsewhere.

“Church websites are now seen as essential to a congregation’s outreach,” Dawes said. “An active social media presence should be viewed in the same manner. An ever-increasing number of people engage organizations via social media platforms, learning of upcoming events, viewing event photos, and interacting with people connected to the organization in virtual space. Churches must embrace this shift to remain visible and effective in their mission and ministry initiatives.”

Dawes offers tips for how to effectively use specific social media platforms, since each platform comes with unique aspects, expectations and audiences.

“Each social media platform offers advantages and disadvantages,” he explained. “Facebook has the largest number of users, but not everyone who ‘likes’ your Facebook page will see the content you post. Twitter allows everyone who follows you to see your posts, but most people follow so many people that content is often ‘lost in the shuffle.’ Pinterest has lower total users, but it offers a visual approach, enabling aesthetically-pleasing presentations primarily of pictures and videos.”

“Each platform allows you to connect with different folks in different ways, so an ‘either-or’ mindset should be avoided when seeking to engage constituents on social media,” he added. “Churches, organizations should use every social media platform that meets a need for their constituents and helps them communicate what their organization is about and what it is doing.”

Like EthicsDaily.com, Churchnet utilizes multiple social media platforms. Churchnet has a page on Facebook (facebook.com/theChurchnet), an account on Twitter (twitter.com/ChurchnetBGCM), and a page on Vimeo (vimeo.com/Churchnet).

As a Churchnet board member, Evans serves on the new Generational Engagement Team. The team met for the first time in June as part of the new Vision 2020 strategic plan that will guide Churchnet’s ministries in 2015-2020. One goal of the team will be to assist congregations with strategies for effective digital communications. To reach new generations and cultures, churches need to develop a strong, engaged online presence through social media.

This even means learning a new digital language, such as hitting “like” on Facebook, “retweeting” and using “hashtags” (which look like #) on Twitter, “pinning” on Pinterest and more.

Note: If you would like to learn more about digital communications for your church, contact Brian Kaylor, Churchnet’s Generational Engagement Leader, at bkaylor@churchnet.org or 888-420-2426, ext. 704.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Baptists Without Borders

by Brian Kaylor

Standing before the immigration desk in a foreign nation - especially one where English is not the primary language - I always wait slightly nervously as an agent flips through my passport. I expect no problems (and have done nothing, of course, to warrant suspicion) but in that moment I recognize my freedom to enter lies in someone else’s hands.

Despite the slight uptick in my heartbeat, I always receive a stamp in my passport before being waved on to enter. As a privileged American, however, my concerns pale to the actual hardships many face as they attempt to cross borders for business, pleasure, or safety. Last month, a young man nodded to allow me to enter the Republic of Turkey for the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Some Baptists from other countries - such as Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - were not allowed to attend the gathering.

National borders sit as artificial human creations that can change on a whim. Yet these lines on a map can divide families, spell doom for displaced persons, or cause hardships for others. Those I am not necessarily opposed to national boundaries, I worry about the danger of allowing these arbitrary lines to shape the way I see the world. Do I see the world God put together or the one humans have cut up?

Many organizations work to cross national boundaries to work together and perform important work. Médecins Sans Frontières - also known as Doctors Without Borders - has served as one of the most important humanitarian medical groups since its founding in 1971. Often working in war-torn nations, this group of doctors serve all people and advocate for peace and justice. The group, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, made the news recently for their work in countries fighting the current Ebola outbreak.

I am a member of a similarly-named group: Reporters Sans Frontières (or Reporters Without Borders). This group supports journalists being harassed and attacked in various countries and advocates for greater press freedoms around the world. Many other groups also use the “without borders” designation, including Lawyers Without Borders, Teachers Without Borders, and Monks Without Borders (started by Buddhist monks in Japan).

EthicsDaily.com created a documentary on immigration issues called Gospel Without Borders that considers how U.S. churches should act. A fantastic film that explores the often-controversial topic with fairness and depth, the film reminds viewers that the Bible’s calling and teachings do not stop at our nation’s borders.

The BWA does not use the “without borders” tag in its name but the organization of global Baptists essentially functions as “Baptists Without Borders.” The BWA unites more than 230 Baptist bodies in 121 countries that represent 42 million members in more than 175,000 congregations. Churchnet, a member body, remains connected to the global Baptist family through the BWA. Gatherings, like the recent one in Turkey, bring Baptists from around the world together for worship, fellowship, missions, and ministry.

One of the resolutions passed during the BWA gathering in Turkey captures this message well. Addressing the conflict in Ukraine, the resolution affirmed Baptists in both Ukraine and Russia as they attempt to peacefully support each other even as the political leaders of the two nations remain in opposition. It also offered a prophetic reminder about the nature of the shared citizenship in the Kingdom.

“The General Council of the Baptist World Alliance,” the resolution explains, “believes that our allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord transcends all our national allegiances and aspirations, and that Christ, by his death on the Cross has ‘broken down the dividing walls of hostility’ (Ephesians 2:14), now and for all time to come.”

The church I gather with on Sunday is not the Church. Rather the full body of Christ crosses national boundaries and dividing walls. Thus, a Baptist from the U.S. worked with a Baptist from Central America to lead the writing of the BWA’s resolution passed in Turkey that deals with the issue of unaccompanied children refugees from Central America crossing the U.S. border.

My faith was enriched during the BWA gathering in Turkey as I heard from Baptists from Brazil, Iraq, Israel, Moldova, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and many other nations. We are better together because we are meant to be together.

I encourage you to check out the BWA’s website (www.bwanet.org) to learn more about the group and its work. I hope you will also read information about the BWA World Congress next July in Durban, South Africa. Start to make plans to join thousands of Baptists from around the world for the World Congress. Together we can transcend borders and declare the BWA slogan (borrowed from Paul) that we share “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” I am looking forward to the World Congress - that is, after those few minutes of waiting for my passport stamp as I try to cross yet another border.

You can contact Brian Kaylor, Churchnet’s Communications & Engagement Leader, at (888) 420-2426 ext. 704 or at bkaylor@churchnet.org.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Global Baptists Gather in Turkey

Jim Hill speaking at the
BWA Annual Gathering
by Jim Hill

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of representing Churchnet at the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance. Forestal Lawton, Director of the Men’s Department of the BWA and Vice President of Churchnet, and Brian Kaylor, Communications & Engagement Leader for Churchnet, also attended the gathering, which was held in Izmir, Turkey. We had the opportunity to welcome a small group of Baptist congregations in Turkey, who recently formed an alliance. to the global Baptist family. Every year the gathering offers the opportunity for Baptists from around the world to come together for commission and committee meetings, fellowship, worship, and the general council meetings to conduct the business of the BWA.

One of the highlights every year is the presentation of the Human Rights Award. This year Ilie Coada, a Baptist pastor in Moldova, who worked tirelessly against human trafficking and the sex trade in his country, was presented with the 2014 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award. The award is given for significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore, or preserve human rights as stated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other declarations on human rights. Coada established a relief association to manage his various projects. He opened a shelter for vulnerable girls, many of whom were raised in ophanages, to live and complete their education. He also founded a community center that offers after-school programs to more than 500 children. He began an elder-care program in connection with the children’s center so senior adults could share meals and build relationships with the children as adopted grandparents.

Another very important decision made at this year’s Annual Gathering was the election of a new president to lead the BWA during the next 5 years. Ngwedla Paul Msiza of South Africa was elected president of the BWA. He was elected along with 12 vice presidents by the BWA General Council. Msiza, 53, will take office at the conclusion of the 21st Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa in July next year. He will follow John Upton of the United States who will be completing his term. Msiza, a current Vice President, has been actively involved in the BWA since 2000. He sits on the General Council, the Executive Committee, the Nominations Committee, the Congress Committee, the Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection Advisory Committee and the Promotion and Development Advisory Committee. He was president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, from 2006-2011 and general secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa (BCSA) from 2001-2010. I know he will provide excellent leadership for the BWA.

Following the conclusion of the General Council meeting, the BWA group had the privilege of visiting the ruins of Ephesus. It is one of the most fascinating of the Biblical sites and features incredible ancient ruins. This was my second visit to Ephesus and it was great to see the progress of the excavation. The Apostle Paul spent a great deal of time in Ephesus, which was the capital of Asia Minor. Ephesus and Izmir (Smyrna) were two of seven churches to which the book of the Revelation was addressed.

I hope you will consider attending the BWA World Congress planned for next year in Durban, South Africa. It will provide a wonderful opportunity to engage with the global Baptist family.

You can contact Jim Hill, Churcohnet’s Executive Director, at (888) 420-2426 ext. 705 or at jimhill@churchnet.org.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Churchnet has Resources for Victims of Church-Related Sexual Abuse

Bob Perry
Churchnet is seeking to reach out to persons who have been victims of sexual abuse at church. Utilizing a recently received grant, the Congregational Health Team of Churchnet is prepared to assist those who contact us for confidential help. It is well understood that sexual abuse at church, particularly at the hands of clergy, does enormous damage emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Too often church organizations have attempted to quietly brush aside reports of misconduct to avoid “conflict in the church.” The victims of abuse have been victimized a second time by uncaring and unsympathetic church structures that have been more concerned about their images than the wellbeing and recovery of the persons offended.

Churchnet is forming a network of survivors of clergy abuse, and we are developing a list of psychologists and therapists in various parts of Missouri who specialize in sexual abuse treatment and recovery. Churchnet’s website (www.theChurchnet.org) has links to a list of books that provide valuable information on the subject, and there are websites listed for organizations that offer resources.

If you have been hurt by sexual abuse at church, whether it was recent or years in the past, we want to help you. We can enable you to speak with persons who have shared similar experiences and with professionals who can help you overcome.

You can begin the process of getting help by contacting our Congregational Health Team Leader, Dr. Bob Perry. His phone number is (888) 420-2426, ext. 706, and his

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Wilson-Hartgrove Speaks on Finding Hope in the Depths

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
(photo credit: Bill Webb/Word&Way)
by Brian Kaylor

Speaker and author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove brought the keynote message at Churchnet’s 2014 Annual Gathering. He started his message by recalling hearing bombs falling in Baghdad. Wilson-Hartgrove and his wife, Leah, joined other Christians in traveling to Iraq just as the U.S. government launched its 2003 “shockand- awe” military campaign. Recounting some of the stories from that experience, including seeing Iraqi Muslims live out the role of the ‘Good Samaritan’ to some of his wounded colleagues, Wilson-Hartgrove shared that he learned about hope from that experience.

Pointing to Psalm 130, from which the theme passage for the weekend gathering came, Wilson-Hartgrove noted that “the psalmist begins in the depths.” He pointed out that the psalmist cried out from the depths but then spoke of finding hope in the Lord.

“There’s something about genuine hope that has to begin in the depths,” Wilson-Hartgrove added. “In the depths that we would so often rather ignore. In the depths that if our money and our so-called privilege can allow us to we would rather stay away from. Yet, it’s in the depths I’ve found Christian hope.”

After returning from Iraq, Wilson-Hartgrove and his wife started an intentional Christian community they named “Rutba House” (after the city of Rutba in Iraq). He describes Rutba House as “a house of hospitality where the formerly homeless are welcomed into a community that eats, prays, and shares life together.” His most recent book, Strangers at My Door , includes many stories about life at Rutba House.

“I’ve begun to learn what Christian hope means,” he said. “The gift of life in community there at Rutba House to me has been learning the authentic hope that grows up out of the depths of the worst that our world can offer.”

Wilson-Hartgrove noted that one “Baptist hero” he continues to “lean on quite a bit” is Clarence Jordan. In 1942, Jordan co-founded Koinonia Farm in southwestern Georgia as a multi-racial Christian farming community. Despite violent attacks from the Ku Klux Klan and a devastating economic boycott from the local community, Jordan and the community persevered. Jordan later wrote the Cotton Patch Gospel and played a pivotal role in the creation of Habitat for Humanity.

Wilson-Hartgrove shared a quotation from Jordan that he finds helpful: “The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.”

“That’s the resurrection,” Wilson-Hartgrove added. “Jesus is alive and a new community is possible in the world.”

He added that he remains hopeful as he visits other Christians taking seriously this idea of living out the resurrection hope.

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Potts Describes Heart for Missions


Donna Potts (photo credit: Bill Webb/Word&Way)
by Brian Kaylor

Donna Potts gave her first president’s address at Churchnet’s 2014 Annual Gathering. Elected last year as the first woman and first layperson to serve as Churchnet’s president, Potts was reelected this year without any opposition. Feeling that many Churchnet individuals did not know her well, Potts offered a mostly biographical look at her ministry and missions efforts, weaving in key lessons about serving others and joining with the global Baptist family.

Potts drew on two different TV viewing experiences to sum up her thoughts on missions. She noted that food shows are popular because “people can watch them, they can go buy the ingredients, and they can end up with the exact same delicious dish that the cook on TV did.” Yet, she also noted that her husband can watch Tiger Woods golf and then go use the same club and swing the same way but still “cannot play like Tiger Woods.”

“Missions is a little bit like both of those examples,” she said. “You can watch a missionary from afar and try to accomplish the same things and missions does get done. But you can watch and use your talents and your gifts that God gave just to you, and you can listen for God’s direction, and you can do missions in just the way that you’re supposed to do it. God doesn’t need stars, he uses ordinary people with a heart for helping the lost.”

“I hope you say ‘yes’ when missions opportunity comes your way,” Potts added. “Churchnet is here to serve churches, and those churches are full of hurting people. The world is waiting, and we need to share God’s love to all individuals inside and outside the church.”

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