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CALL TO PRAYER: In the news

NASHVILLE (BP) — As each day passes, a news-saturated America is confronted with an array of troubling reports, stretching from the nation’s spiritual decline to the horrors of persecution targeting believers in such countries as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, Somalia, China and many of the countries that were part of the former Soviet Union.

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling Southern Baptists and all believers to prayer for spiritual awakening that can have a global impact.

In a post on the SBC President’s Page at sbc.net, Floyd noted:

“As Christ-followers experience moments of spiritual revival and the church experiences seasons of God’s refreshing Spirit and power, I believe God may choose to extend His grace by raising up regions, sections or even the entire nation to experience a God-consciousness that moves us into a season of seeing millions in our own nation come to Christ. History demonstrates that movements like this in the past become global in their reach and effectiveness.

“May we live to see the day when this occurs,” Floyd wrote on Sept. 3, “so that we can be a part of seeing every person and people group in this world hearing that Jesus Christ is the only Way, the only Truth, the only Life, and there is no way to God the Father and Heaven itself, except through Him.”

Individuals interested in prayer updates from Floyd can sign up at www.pray4awakening.com.

During a week in which America remembered the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks 13 years earlier, news reports provided plenty of awareness and motivation to Christians for intercessory prayer in today’s world.

Among them:

— The eventual court battle at the U.S. Supreme Court over same-sex marriage. A three-judge panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard appeals Sept. 8 in three cases in which federal judges had struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. Traditional marriage had suffered a string of losses in federal courts, with a rare exception rendered in a federal district court in New Orleans Sept. 3 upholding Louisiana’s law limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

— A sudden escalation of concern about domestic abuse stemming from an NFL football player striking his then-fiancée and criticism of the NFL for its handling of spousal abuse cases. Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called on government officials to “work, at every level, to prosecute the abusers of women and children in a way that will both deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse.” He noted that churches must “address the spiritual and moral realities behind” domestic violence by disciplining men who abuse women and teaching about biblical gender roles.

— Ongoing sensitivity in churches to mental needs and ministries. A Mental Health Advisory Group, appointed by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, is at work to bring a report next spring that will set forth resources and other help for churches to minister to people suffering with mental illness. The advisory group, though not an official committee of the SBC, includes pastors, licensed counselors, healthcare providers, educators, social workers and a military chaplain, representing churches, private practices, para-church ministries, state conventions and national SBC entities. Many members of the group have dealt with mental health challenges within their own families in addition to their professional experience.

— Hundreds of thousands in northern India and Pakistan who have fled their homes from flash floods and landslides reported to be among the worst in 60 years in the Himalayan region. “When the waters recede, we’ll help people with immediate needs such as housing, clean water and food,” an International Mission Board worker in the region reported. Hunger and relief funds provided by Southern Baptists in the U.S. will be a key resource. IMB personnel set forth several prayer requests: 1) for men and women to turn to the Lord during this time of suffering and sorrow; 2) for those who are going to do initial assessments to be wise, compassionate and courageous; and 3) for protection against disease and illness and that food, water and housing will be found for those in need.

Within the Southern Baptist Convention, meanwhile, prayer continues to undergird the witness and ministry of individual believers, churches, state conventions and the SBC.

Among significant points of intercession:

— “Cooperative Program Emphasis Month” in October, when churches are challenged to learn and pray about their part in Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving to support missions and ministry initiatives in their states, across the nation and throughout the world. After many years of decline in average Cooperative Program from churches of about 0.20 percentage points per year, the decline leveled off in 2011 and 2012 (5.407 percent and 5.414 percent, respectively), rising slightly to last year’s 5.50 percent. Through a broad range of efforts to undergird the CP, Frank Page noted, “It’s exciting to see new pastors, younger pastors, older pastors, ethnic pastors, Anglo pastors, say, ‘You know, it’s time to put more emphasis on the Cooperative Program.'”

— The election of David Platt as president of the International Mission Board. Platt, 36, moves to the post from the pastorate of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. He has taken the Gospel to numerous countries in mission trips and is known for his call in the best-selling book “Radical” for Christians to make great sacrifice for the Great Commission. “I think we’ve been almost seduced by the spirit of cultural Christianity that says, ‘Oh, come to Christ and you can keep your life as you know it,'” Platt said in an interview. “No, you come to Christ and you lose your life as you know it. The more you’re active in sharing the Gospel … the more resistance you’ll face. … [But] it helps you realize this is what our brothers and sisters around the world are facing in different places. If we’re going to join with them in spreading the Gospel, then we need to be ready to embrace that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.'”

— New help for sharing one’s faith in day-to-day life. 3 Circles, a new resource through the North American Mission Board, is “a memorable, easy way to explain how anyone can have a personal relationship with Christ,” said Derek Staples, an Alabama pastor who is teaching 3 Circles in the church he leads and who used it in a medical mission trip to Honduras in preaching about 40 times. The tool helps people use three simple circles that represent God’s Design, Brokenness and the Gospel — which can be drawn, for example, on a napkin during lunch — to communicate the Gospel. NAMB has produced a variety of resources to help support pastors to train their churches to use 3 Circles, including free Apple and Android apps, a conversation guide, a PowerPoint presentation and online videos.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).