Mo. church plant transforming lives
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Pathway) – Nearly one year ago, 12 people met in Jernigan Schwent’s northern Kansas City living room to discuss God’s vision for a new church plant.
Today the fulfillment of that vision, Discover Church, has risen to about 340 people each weekend.
While its official launch date was Aug. 19, God has been orchestrating and strategizing the vision of Discover Church long before that. Schwent was on staff as a student minister at Abundant Life in Lee’s Summit, when God began to stir his heart toward a new calling on his life.
“What God has done through our church is unnatural,” said Schwent, pastor of Discover Church here. “The trajectory and the velocity we’ve experienced in just the three months since we launched is amazing and not at all the norm. I’m not ashamed, but grateful to be able to brag on God for what He has chosen to do.”
During the pre-launch phase, they hosted multiple interest parties in order to gather people together, have conversations regarding faith and church, and allow the Holy Spirit to work.
They stepped out in obedience, and God has certainly shown up. Not only in the number of people who have been drawn to Discover Church, but in the individual lives and hearts of those who have come to call this church home.
Trafficking bill applauded, bolstered with ministry
WASHINGTON (BP) – Amid the gridlock of a partial federal government shutdown, President Trump and lawmakers came together across party lines to enact anti-human trafficking legislation named for the 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy with Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, voiced gratitude “for the leadership of Congressman Chris Smith [a New Jersey Republican who sponsored the legislation] and all those who worked to see the Fredrick Douglass bill become law.”
“This Act brings new resources to the tireless fight of seeking freedom for captives and justice for perpetrators of this grievous evil,” Wussow said. “We pray that our government’s efforts will honor this bill’s namesake by abolishing the terror of slavery both here and abroad.”
Signed into law Jan. 8 by Trump, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act passed the House 368-7 and the Senate by voice vote.
The bill authorizes some $430 million over four years to combat sex and labor trafficking in the U.S. and abroad. It focuses on prevention education, help for trafficking victims, facilitating trafficking-free supply chains in U.S. commerce and training U.S. airline employees to recognize trafficking.
Trump signed three additional anti-trafficking bills between Dec. 21 and Jan. 9.
Dutch backlash to Nashville Statement ‘ominous’
AMSTERDAM (BP) – In the Netherlands, signatories of The Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality have been threatened with criminal prosecution, admonished by employers and derided by protests.
The episode has been cited by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. as “an ominous warning” of religious liberty restrictions to come in the U.S.
“There are many in the United States who would say, ‘Well, that’s the Netherlands. It can’t have anything to do with Christians in the United States,'” Mohler said Jan. 9 in his podcast The Briefing. “But of course it can.”
About 250 Christian leaders in the Netherlands have signed a Dutch translation of The Nashville Statement, Dutch News reported Jan. 7. Released in 2017 by an evangelical coalition including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, The Nashville Statement affirms biblical prohibitions of homosexual practice and transgenderism.
The Dutch translation appends a postscript confessing the guilt of Dutch Christians for “not decorat[ing] our principles with the example of our lives” and for occasional “abuse of power towards those who know of same-sex orientation,” according to a translation posted online by LifeSite.
Still, the Dutch government’s prosecution service announced this week it was examining the statement to see if criminal prosecution of signatories was warranted, Dutch News reported. Dutch opera singer Francis van Broekhuizen has filed a formal police complaint against a Dutch member of parliament who signed The Nashville Statement.
Journey Church & adoption: ‘It is in our DNA’
JONESBORO, Ark. (BP) – In 2011, Dan Reeves began his first sermon series from the book of James as lead pastor of the newly launched Journey Church. At that time, he knew the future ministries of the young congregation were still unclear — that is until he read from James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The church in Jonesboro, Ark., prayed for the Lord to call and equip five families from Journey to adopt. As a reminder, Journey set up five empty picture frames in its foyer.
The Reeves, an adoptive family themselves, make of one of the 25 families who have grown through adoption at Journey Church, including one family who adopted before the church was launched.
One family, the Bakers, after God kept closing doors, finally adopted through the fostercare program.
The Bakers are still undergoing training through the Unplowed Ground program offered by King’s Ranch, a non-profit organization that provides support, education and training in therapeutic parenting tools.
Unplowed Ground was developed by Eddie and Lee Anne Cooper, members of Journey.
After they began their own adoption journey 15 years ago, the Coopers compiled what they have learned through the years working with children with histories of trauma, loss and abuse. The Coopers focus on equipping families to help their adopted children heal.
“Adoption is and always has been a key component of the culture of Journey,” Veronica Reeves said. “It is in our DNA.”
Judges block rules on abortion mandate
WASHINGTON (BP) – Federal conscience protections for American employers who object to the abortion/contraception mandate are on hold.
Federal judges in California and Pennsylvania blocked Sunday (Jan. 13) and Monday (Jan. 14), respectively, implementation of final rules from the Trump administration that provided exemptions for employers with religious or moral objections to the 2011 requirement instituted under President Obama.
The opinions prevented rules issued in November by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from taking effect Monday while challenges proceed in the courts. The ruling in Pennsylvania was a preliminary injunction for the entire country, while the decision in California affected the 13 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have sued HHS.
The court actions are the latest shots in a seven-year battle over a controversial regulation that helped implement the 2010 health-care reform law. The rule required employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives, including those with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions, or face potentially devastating fines. It elicited legal challenges from more than 90 religious nonprofit organizations, including GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and at least seven Baptist universities.
ERLC releases update on sex abuse study group
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Biblical Recorder) – Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the study group on sexual abuse launched last summer by J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is currently focused on assessing needs and reviewing ways to prevent abuse and care for survivors.
Bethancourt outlined “phase one” of the group’s three-part effort and signaled plans for the future in an article published at the ERLC website on Jan. 14. The study group was formed by Greear, who serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., in conjunction with the ERLC and the SBC Executive Committee.
The group has asked for input from a range of sources, including commissioning a survey on abuse by LifeWay Christian Resources. Plans for the project’s next phases – development and implementation – are already taking shape, according to Bethancourt.
Forthcoming resources will include “church-based strategies, seminary and higher education practices and training, and resources to be utilized at every level of the SBC” as part of a “wide-scale, comprehensive effort.” More information will be released at the SBC annual meeting, June 11-12, in Birmingham, Ala.
Bethancourt encouraged churches not to wait until the study group finishes their work to begin preventing abuse and caring for survivors.