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SBC agencies tap technology to communicate & minister

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As the new century begins with technology of seemingly limitless potential, Southern Baptists agencies are making greater use of modern media to communicate and provide ministry.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee provides an Internet website — sbc.net — with links to the websites of every other SBC agency, along with computer access to Baptist Press, the Executive Committee journal SBC Life and, among other choices, a section on trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
All of the national SBC agencies host websites offering a variety of resources, such as current prayer needs — those of the International Mission Board are at imb.org; the North American Mission Board, namb.org. Additionally, IMB can e-mail daily listings of international missionaries for prayer on their birthdays, while NAMB resources include a computer screen saver that changes daily to list home missionaries for prayer on their birthdays.
Among other resources on various SBC websites are archived news releases, photographs to download and e-mail directories for greater access to SBC employees and missionaries.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is reaching a potential audience of 1 million-plus people with its live call-in radio program, “For Faith & Family.” The half-hour weekday broadcast is carried by 250 stations across the country and on the Internet via www.faith&family.com. The ERLC also produces a one-minute “For Faith & Family Insight” aired on an additional 115-plus stations.
ERLC President Richard Land is the program’s host, leading biblically based discussions on such social and ethical issues as abortion, gambling, racism, pornography and drug and alcohol abuse. The ministry helps listeners “develop a Christian worldview,” Land has said, “which will enable them to fully understand and address the critical social, moral and public policy issues facing our nation.”
Land added, “The miracle of technology — real-time broadcasting on the Internet — will enable us to reach the widest audience possible, particularly an audience not typically Christian.”
Cyber visitors to LifeWay.com can find daily devotions, teaching helps for all ages, Christian Single magazine, and sites geared to children, youth, college students, singles and adults, as well as information about conferences, events and new resources.
On-line ordering is available through LifeWay to access Bibles, books, music, supplies, videos, reference materials and other resources for pastors, church staff and teachers. Dated resources for Sunday school and other programs can be ordered by using a personal identification number.
And for those who have avoided the Internet for fear of receiving offensive material, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission offers Rated-G Online, which blocks thousands of Internet sites most Christians would find objectionable, using powerful database filters at the server level (instead of home computer software).
Complete access to the Internet is available through Rated-G Online, except for sites which fall into the categories of nudity; pornography; depiction or description of sexual acts; violence; drug use; vulgarities; racial, ethnic or inappropriate discrimination; crime; and high-risk chat sites.
When a person becomes a Rated-G Online subscriber, a percentage of the sign-on and monthly fees is returned to the ERLC to further its ministry. More information is available at the ERLC website, erlc.com or by calling the agency at (615) 244-2495.
Those who access the website of the Annuity Board (at annuityboard.org) can check their own retirement fund performance and use a “retirement forecaster” to project the estimated monthly benefit amount at different retirement ages.
Several years ago the Annuity Board moved to from four investment funds to 13 options. The LifePoint investment education program helps each participant select an appropriate investment strategy for particular stages of life. The board’s website includes an outline of the program.
The six Southern Baptist seminaries are taking varying approaches to the use of technology in education. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (at ggbts.edu) is offering a master of theology degree with some coursework conducted over the Internet, while New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (at nobts.edu) offers classes by live compressed interactive video for students at multiple locations. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (at swbts.edu) offers diploma-level credit on-line with a few master’s-level courses available.
Other seminaries are more cautious in their use of computer technology for distant education. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Mark Coppenger observed, “The main campus exposes the student to a rich mix of other students from around the nation and world,” as well as providing chapel and community experiences, access to mission board personnel and exposure to choice professors. “This sort of contact and multiple coursework is much more difficult in distant learning, even at extensions,” Coppenger said.
While Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (at sbts.edu) offers a doctor of education in leadership that depends on interaction via the Internet as well as intensive on-campus seminars, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. emphasized Southern is “a Scripture-driven institution, not a technology-driven school.”
“Technology may be an assistant here but it cannot be the ruler,” added Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson. Southeastern’s use of technology includes plans for a missions training center that will allow students and professors to communicate directly with missionaries around the globe through broadcasts on closed-circuit television and interactive video. Visit sebts.edu for more information.
NAMB, meanwhile, is providing its church planters with a “Church Planter Management System” software package on operating a new church. Richard H. Harris, vice president of NAMB’s church-planting group, said the software provides “tools that have gone through a tough learning curve of practical experience. Our desire is to be able to assist each and every new church with the help, support, prayer and practical assistance to succeed as quickly as possible.”

Art Toalston, Dwayne Hastings & James Dotson contributed to this article.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter