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Index Magazine: Georgia's Bethlehem Church experiencing exceptional growth

Pastor Jason Britt baptizes a new believer at Bethlehem Church.
BETHLEHEM, Ga.— Those who drove east on Highway 316 to the University of Georgia football games last fall may not have noticed Georgia Baptists’ largest church in worship attendance. Pastor Jason Britt and his excellent staff have been faithfully serving Christ and doing their work without much notice from those outside the Barrow, Oconee, and Walton County area, yet mobilizing hundreds of people to build one of the fastest-growing churches in America.
Migrants wait to be processed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol after they crossed the Rio Grande and entered the U.S. from Mexico, Oct. 19, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Lifeway study shows evangelicals back immigration reform, increased border security
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — American evangelicals have complex perspectives on immigration and want a nuanced political response, but most want Congress to act soon. A Lifeway Research study sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table found evangelicals are increasingly concerned about the number of recent immigrants to the U.S. but still believe Christians have a responsibility to care for those who are in the country illegally.
Steve McEntyre poses for a photo beside a Cherokee County fire truck. He is now pastor of Cheatham Hills Baptist Church in Marietta.
Georgia pastor Steve McEntyre makes career shift, but still rescuing the perishing
MARIETTA, GA – Steve McEntyre has had two careers that have called for him to rescue the perishing, first as a firefighter and now as a minister. McEntyre, pastor of Cheatham Hills Baptist Church in Marietta, served 21 years as a firefighter in Cherokee County. “Pastors and firefighters are all about rescuing the perishing,” he said. “It takes passion and an unquenchable resolve to rescue people from burning buildings. And it takes the same kind of driving force and sense of calling to seek to rescue people from the fires of eternal retribution."
Georgia's Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones smiles after the Senate approved a resolution authorizing a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting. The vote passed on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (Screenshot/Georgia Public Broadcasting)
Senate Republicans defy Georgia's largest religious organization, pass sports betting proposal with help from Dems
ATLANTA — The Republican majority in the state Senate, with help from Democratic colleagues, have pushed through a proposal that could legalize sports gambling in defiance of Georgia’s largest religious organization, which called for the measure to be quashed. The Senate voted 41-12 on Tuesday to pass Senate Resolution 579, another step toward putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for Georgia voters to ratify or reject.
W. Thomas Hammond Jr., executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, preaches at First Baptist Church in Conyers during the second day of an evangelism conference on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. (Index/Henry Durand)
Photo gallery: Scenes from the Georgia Baptist evangelism conference at First Baptist Conyers
CONYERS, Ga. —  More than 400 pastors and other Christian leaders gathered at First Baptist Church in Conyers for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Called to Witness evangelism conference Sunday and Monday.
W. Thomas Hammond Jr., executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, left, and H.B. Charles, pastor at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preach at at an evangelism conference at First Baptist Church in Conyers  on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. (Index/Henry Durand)
Evangelism conference preachers Thomas Hammond, H.B. Charles urge Georgia Baptists to make sharing the gospel top priority
CONYERS, Ga. — Reaching the lost requires Christians to step outside their comfort zones to reach people who desperately need Jesus, preachers told Georgia Baptists on the second day of an evangelism conference in Conyers. “If we’re going to reach this culture, we’re going to have to go to some places that will make us uncomfortable, and we’re going to have to do some things that make our people become uncomfortable,” said W. Thomas Hammond Jr., executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
Baptist Life

Robert Smith Jr., Danny Forshee tell Georgia Baptists sharing Christ is just natural to believers

Robert Smith, left, a professor at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School, and Danny Forshee, lead pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, preach during the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's evangelism conference at First Baptist Church in Conyers, Ga., Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (Index/Henry Durand)
CONYERS, Ga. — For  1.4 million Georgia Baptists to be successful in getting the gospel into every home in the state, they simply need to do what should come natural to all believers — tell others about Jesus. That was a theme of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Called to Witness evangelism conference that kicked off  Sunday evening at First Baptist Church in Conyers. “Once you fall in love with Jesus, you can’t contain it,” said Robert Smith Jr., professor of preaching at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School.
ATLANTA — Senate lawmakers have given a thumbs up to legislation intended to protect religious rights from being infringed upon by state and local governments. Senate Bill 180, which passed 33-19 along party lines, now goes to the House for consideration.
Brody won almost $6,000 last week in Sunday School.  Cash was the next top winner with $5,800.  The money was flowing freely.  Caleb made $3,107, Gavan: $1,638, Sky: $1,156, and on and on.  Poor Hannah ended up with only $707, but it was more than she had walked in with.  I told them “It PAYS to go to Sunday School.” OK, the money wasn’t real and they had to give it all back, but it was fun while it lasted.
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee pastor Jared Moore, described as a man who “faithfully represents salt-of-the-earth Southern Baptists,” will be nominated for SBC president at this year’s annual meeting in Indianapolis. Oklahoma pastor Dusty Deevers announced Wednesday that he plans to nominate Moore, pastor at Homesteads Baptist Church in Crossville. “You have a man in Jared Moore who loves Christ, his church, and the SBC and wants to see the SBC using all of its tremendous resources to accomplish the Great Commission faithfully,” Deevers said.
We are going on a trip soon that will be out of the country. I have a huge “to-do” list before I can leave that involves both things I need to do for work and things I need to do to get myself ready for the trip. As I was thinking about my “to-do list” I thought about God.
Georgia

A former Georgia police officer and a current one are indicted in a fatal November 2022 shooting

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — A current Georgia police officer and a former one have been indicted in the 2022 shooting death of a man inside his home in suburban Atlanta, authorities said Wednesday. A grand jury handed up charges of felony involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor reckless conduct against former DeKalb County Police Officer Russell Mathis, 30, and charged Officer Jordan Vance, 30, with reckless conduct, county prosecutors said in a news release.

$1 million in stolen cargo discovered in warehouse near Georgia port

RINCON, Ga. (AP) — Authorities in Georgia discovered an estimated $1 million worth of stolen cargo inside a warehouse a few miles from Savannah’s busy seaport. Investigators with a search warrant found pallets of consumer goods including cellphones, food and Peloton exercise equipment, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday.

Georgia will spend $392 million to overhaul its gold-domed Capitol and build new legislative offices

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's lawmakers are moving not only to regild the iconic dome on state Capitol, but the entire complex. Lawmakers on Monday with little dissent agreed to spend $392 million to build a new legislative office building for themselves and to renovate the 1889 Capitol building.

Court documents shed new details in killing of nursing student at University of Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) — The illegal immigrant suspected in the killing of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus used an object as a weapon in the crime according to newly filed arrest affidavits.
Nation
More than a dozen officers line up to escort the bodies of an Independence, Mo., police officer and a Jackson County court worker to the medical examiner's office Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Independence. (AP Photo/Heather Hollingsworth)

Court worker serving an eviction notice and an officer were fatally shot in Missouri, police say

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A court employee and a police officer were fatally shot Thursday after the court process server tried to serve an eviction notice at a home in Missouri, authorities said. A second officer was critically injured, but is expected to survive, police said.

Judge blocks Texas law that gives police broad powers to arrest migrants who illegally enter US

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday blocked a new Texas law that would give police broad powers to arrest migrants suspected of illegally entering the U.S., dealing a victory to the Biden administration with a broad rejection of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's immigration enforcement effort.

Lawmakers fault Defense Secretary Austin for a failure of leadership over his secret hospital stay

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced pointed bipartisan criticism at a congressional hearing Thursday for his failure to promptly notify President Joe Biden and other U.S. leaders about his hospital stay last month. Republicans demanded to know why no one has been disciplined.

Black History Month: Black soldiers are honored at a Civil War battlefield

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — Thelma Sims Dukes grew up during the 1940s and ‘50s in a segregated Mississippi town steeped in Civil War history. As a small Black girl, she would walk to school through Vicksburg National Military Park — the hilly battlefield where Union and Confederate soldiers fought and died. Union forces won a pivotal campaign to capture the town of Vicksburg and gain control of the Mississippi River in 1863, hastening the war's end.
World
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his state-of-the-nation address in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Putin warns that sending Western troops to Ukraine risks a global nuclear war

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to fulfill Moscow’s goals in Ukraine and sternly warned the West against deeper involvement in the fighting, saying that such a move is fraught with the risk of a global nuclear conflict. Putin's blunt warning came in a state-of-the-nation address ahead of next month’s election he’s all but certain to win, underlining his readiness to raise the stakes in the tug-of-war with the West to protect the Russian gains in Ukraine.

Russian onslaught targets more Ukrainian towns and villages as Ukraine says it shot down 2 warplanes

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are pushing hard against more Ukrainian towns and villages in eastern and southeastern Ukraine as Moscow tries to press its current advantage in weapons and troops, Kyiv officials said Thursday. Despite Russia’s apparent offensive momentum on the ground, Ukraine claimed it has shot down 11 Russian warplanes in less than two weeks as the Kremlin’s forces pushed forward.

Young South Korean doctors resist back-to-work orders, risking prosecution

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — As South Korea’s government made a last plea for junior doctors to end a walkout hours before a Thursday deadline, many were expected to defy orders to return to work, risking suspensions of medical licenses and prosecution. Thousands of medical interns and residents have been on strike for about 10 days to protest the government’s push to boost medical school enrollments.

Families of hostages held in Gaza launch a 4-day march to demand their freedom

The families of hostages held in Gaza and their supporters are launching a four-day march from southern Israel to Jerusalem to demand their loved ones be set free. The march comes as negotiations are underway in Qatar to bring about a deal between Hamas and Israel that would lead to a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages. U.S. President Joe Biden has said such a deal was at hand but officials from Israel and Hamas were skeptical of his optimism.
Perspectives
Small groups serve as vital threads in church life, weaving together individuals in fellowship, discipleship, and mission. Just as soon as a new group is launched, questions of long-term success arise. How will we measure success? How will we keep our groups on mission? What content will they teach week over week or year over year? For our groups to be sustainable, they need a system to flourish.
On Thursday afternoon, Feb. 22, SB 180, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6 to 3 vote. It now goes to the Rules Committee to be considered for a vote by Thursday, Feb. 29, on Crossover Day.   
Doc Johnson croaked the other day. I am not being disrespectful. That’s what Doc wanted in his obituary: He croaked. Yes, that’s an unusual request, but Doc Johnson was an unusual guy. He was who he was. He was comfortable in his skin—and in his overalls, worn T-shirt, and long, scraggly hair and beard, all of which might disguise the encyclopedic mind that could reveal surprising information about most any subject.
Vance Havner (1901-1986), a Baptist prophet of an earlier generation, said: “Far too often churches have inoculated people with Christianity. Given them enough of the real thing to make them think they really have it.” Jesus said, “suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 19:14) He also admonished; “It is better for him if a millstone is hung around his neck and he is thrown into the sea, than that he may cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:2) Jesus reserved one of his sternest warnings, to those who would lead children astray.
​George Barnard Shaw said, “There are two sources of unhappiness in life. One is not getting what you want; the other is getting it.” America is obsessed with success. We work hard to get what we want. From the early days of our youth, competing is encouraged to reach number one, whether it’s winning the spelling bee or ranking at the top of our class. Setting our minds on a goal and pressing until we reach that goal makes us a success, we think. Success is a destination.
Business
The final version of the 737 MAX, the MAX 10, takes off from Renton Airport in Renton, Wash., on its first flight Friday, June 18, 2021. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)

Boeing given 90 days by FAA to come up with a plan to improve safety and quality of manufacturing

The Federal Aviation Administration is giving Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan to fix quality problems and meet safety standards for building new planes. The agency said Wednesday that the directive follows meetings with top Boeing officials, including the company's CEO at FAA headquarters in Washington.

US economic growth slows to 3.2% in fourth quarter, down from previous quarter's 4.9%

WASHINGTON (AP) —  U.S. economic growth slowed to a 3.2% annual pace from October through December, down from 4.9% from July through September, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday in a downgrade from its initial estimate.

Burger chain Wendy's looking to test 'surge pricing' at restaurants as early as next year

Wendy's is looking to test having the prices of its menu items fluctuate throughout the day based on demand, implementing a strategy that has already taken hold with ride-sharing companies and ticket sellers. During a conference call earlier this month, Wendy's CEO Kirk Tanner said that the Dublin, Ohio-based burger chain will start testing dynamic pricing, also known as surge pricing, as early as next year.

What recession? Professional forecasters raise expectations for US economy in 2024

NEW YORK (AP) — This year looks to be a much better one for the U.S. economy than business economists were forecasting just a few months ago, according to a survey released Monday.

AT&T will give $5 to customers hit by cellphone network outage

AT&T says it will give affected customers $5 each to compensate for last week's cellphone network outage that left many without service for hours.
Sports
Brooklyn Nets' Lonnie Walker IV (8) fouls Atlanta Hawks' Dejounte Murray during the first half Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Cam Johnson scores season-high 29 points to help Nets rout Hawks 124-97

NEW YORK (AP) — Cam Johnson scored a season-high 29 points, hitting a season-high seven 3-pointers in 11 attempts, to help the Brooklyn Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 124-97 on Thursday night to open a two-game series. Fighting for the last play-in spot in the Eastern Conference, the teams will meet again at Barclays Center on Saturday.

Moore scores 23, Georgia Southern defeats Marshall 87-73

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) — Tyren Moore had 23 points in Georgia Southern's 87-73 victory over Marshall on Wednesday night. Moore also added five rebounds for the Eagles (7-23, 7-10 Sun Belt Conference).

Edwards scores 30, James Madison defeats Georgia State 84-78 for its ninth victory in a row

ATLANTA (AP) — Terrence Edwards scored 30 points and James Madison beat Georgia State 84-78 on Wednesday night for its ninth victory in a row. Edwards also contributed five assists for the Dukes (27-3, 15-3 Sun Belt Conference).

Jalen Johnson has 22 points as Hawks never trail in runaway 124-97 win over Jazz

ATLANTA (AP) — Jalen Johnson had 22 points with 13 rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks never trailed after scoring the first 12 points and beat the Utah Jazz 124-97 on Tuesday night. The Hawks have won two straight games after losing All-Star point guard Trae Young for at least four weeks with a torn ligament in his left pinky finger. Dejounte Murray, who has taken over primary ball-handling duties, scored 17 points with 11 assists.