News Articles

SBC DIGEST: Mississippi DOM dies of COVID-19; Pastor urges prayer for arson suspect; LifeWay’s ETCH Conference moves online

Director of missions for Mississippi’s Rankin Baptist Association dies of COVID-19
By BP Staff

BRANDON, Miss. (BP) — Rankin Baptist Association in Mississippi announced via Facebook Tuesday (Aug. 11) the death of director of missions Allen Stephens due to COVID-19. The post said, “It is with a broken heart I share with you the elevation to Heaven of Bro. Allen Stephens. He is healed and is seeing first-hand the beauty of the one he shared through his life — our Lord and Savior.” An earlier announcement on the page asked for prayer as Stephens was taken to Merit Hospital in Brandon, Miss., “fighting for his life.” “He was taken by ambulance and CPR was performed,” the post said. “We covet your prayers for him and his family.”

An announcement today (Aug. 12) on the same Facebook account said Stephens’ daughter Shanda also had been hospitalized with the virus early this morning.

Stephens is survived by his wife Omega, his daughters and extended family, WLBT news reported.

“He has left a tremendous hole and we will surely miss his kind heart and gentle spirit! What a wonderful blessing to have ministered alongside him,” the Facebook post said.

Illinois pastor urges prayer for suspect charged in arson
By Meredith Flynn

DOW, Ill. (BP) — A suspect has been charged in the July 29 arson of an IBSA church, and the pastor is urging his congregation to pray for the man. In a Facebook Live post, Pastor David Brown shared at length about the power of God’s forgiveness, and invited all those watching who haven’t yet accepted it to do so.

“That’s the most wonderful news, good news, that I could ever tell you,” said Brown, pastor of Dow Southern Baptist Church. “Folks, if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for anybody in this world. It’s good enough for the young man who’s sitting in the jail who we believe is responsible for burning our church.”

Alton’s Telegraph newspaper reported Jersey County Sheriff’s officials arrested the suspect for arson of a place of worship, criminal damage to property, and burglary of a place of worship. Deahvion Bishop, 21, of St. Louis is also believed to be responsible for damage to a nearby AT&T building.

The church lost a significant part of its building in the fire, including offices and Sunday school classrooms. The sanctuary was spared, but the church met for worship in the parking lot on the Sunday after the fire.

“It’s hard when you put a name and a face to what’s happened,” said Brown, who has led the Dow church for 15 years. “The initial feelings are mixed. I understand there’s anger, there’s grief, there’s hurt, there’s concern, there’s questions about why. And all those things are normal, they’re natural.

“But then quickly I have to look and think, this young man who the police have in custody, I can only imagine he’s scared, that he’s confused. I don’t know the situation in his life. But I’m grateful that God has helped me to understand that we are called to forgive. Period.”

The pastor asked everyone watching to pray for Bishop.

“The same love of Jesus that forgives us, is ready to forgive him,” Brown said, his voice breaking. “That’s my prayer.”


ETCH Family Ministry Conference to be held online this fall
By Aaron Wilson

NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay’s annual ETCH Family Ministry Conference is moving online this fall — and hopes to reach more student and kids ministry leaders than ever before.

ETCH (Equipping the Church and Home) is traditionally held in Nashville, but because of the coronavirus, will transition to a purely online format for 2020. Last year, the conference sold out as around 1,300 ministry leaders of kids and students gathered to hear more than 50 speakers and breakout leaders.

This year’s live ETCH Conference, held October 13-14, will contain even more content and is poised to reach additional ministry leaders as its purely digital presentation will allow kids and student leaders from across the world to tune in. And with travel costs and logistics not being a factor, entire kids, students and family ministry teams along with parents can watch together.

“While we will miss seeing so many of our NextGen leaders in Nashville this year, we are excited the live, virtual ETCH Conference will allow entire NextGen teams to attend together, providing a flexible experience that church staffs can tailor to their needs,” said Jana Magruder, director of LifeWay Kids.

Read the full story here. 

Meredith Flynn is content editor for the Illinois Baptist. Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

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