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Messengers commit to make homes neighborhood 'Lighthouses of Prayer'
--By James Dotson
    ATLANTA, June 16--More than 1,350 Southern Baptists agreed to make their homes "Lighthouses of Prayer" June 14 -- a commitment that includes praying for, caring for and sharing Christ with a total of more than 27,000 families in their respective neighborhoods.
    The written commitments came at the close of the North American Mission Board's annual presentation to the Southern Baptist Convention. The evening presentation was an emotionally charged challenge punctuated by a dramatized family-to-family evangelistic encounter on video, as well as a live appearance by the parents of Columbine High School murder victim Cassie Bernall.
    NAMB President Robert E. "Bob" Reccord repeatedly hammered home a three-part plan for mobilizing Southern Baptists in the task of reaching the United States and Canada.
    "Every Christian can share Christ, every family can be a Lighthouse of Prayer and every church can start a church," he said.
    "The key to reaching North America is the renewal of the evangelistic passion and soul of our churches," Reccord said. "Not every Christian is called to leave home and be a missionary out there somewhere, but every Christian is called to be on mission at home and from their home."
    The Lighthouses of Prayer concept encourages Christians to pray for five neighbors on each side of their home as well as 10 neighbors across the street. Part of the interdenominational Celebrate Jesus 2000 movement, it is one of the key strategies for praying for and sharing Christ with everyone in the nation by the end of the year 2000.
    NAMB is promoting the concept through brochures and other materials designed to help families turn their homes into Lighthouses of Prayer. They are available through LifeWay Christian Resources, 1-800-448-8032.
    "For most of us, North America is right where we live," Reccord said. "The people of North America are in desperate need for the gospel, and no one is better called and better equipped to tell them than you or I or the people in our churches."
    After a gripping montage of video and photos depicting Cassie Bernall's unwavering faith in Christ, the audience estimated at more than 7,000 stood and applauded parents Brad and Missy Bernall for well over a minute as they took the platform with Reccord. He asked them how they had managed to make their own home a lighthouse, even in tragedy.
    "You don't do it by yourself," Brad Bernall said in a halting voice. "If we didn't have the faith in the Lord Jesus, we would never have gotten through it. If we didn't have all of our friends at the church pulling for us, we wouldn't have gotten through it.
    "... We hope that everyone would see that we've not been hateful or angry, but rather we've exercised the God-given ability to be forgiving," he added.
    Seventeen-year-old Cassie Bernall became one of the most widely known of the victims of the April 20 shooting in Littleton, Colo., because of her commitment to God -- even in the face of death. One of the gunmen reportedly asked her, "Do you believe in God." She replied, ''Yes, I believe in God,'' in a strong voice. The gunman then mockingly asked, "Why?" just before he shot her.
    The Bernalls spoke of their own struggles in raising their children, including dealing with Cassie when she began experimenting with drugs, alcohol and even witchcraft before she made a life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ.
    Their home continues to be a "lighthouse" for Christ, Brad Bernall said. "We have scores of kids coming in and out all the time. We know the people in our neighborhood ... and I think that through all of this they know that we have something real and valuable."
    Reccord also called attention to the importance of ethnic congregations in the task of reaching the cities -- a priority of NAMB, particularly under the Strategic Focus Cities initiative for focusing massive Southern Baptist resources on reaching two major cities each year. Messengers were asked to pray for the presidents of the 25 ethnic fellowships.
    After a video highlighting the urgency of reaching the cities, students and Canada with the gospel, Reccord transitioned from the mandate for evangelism to the need for planting new churches.
    Taylor Anderson, a Southern Baptist layperson, shared her dramatic testimony of finding Christ after a life of sin and immorality. She also shared of her struggles in finding a strong church in the Midwest, a "pioneer" area for Southern Baptists.
    She and Reccord challenged Southern Baptists to consider how they could be a part of starting new churches, whether nearby or in an area where needs for experienced leaders are especially great.
    "It's taken me at least 15 churches to find the church home that I am attending now," she said. "We need you to take the initiative to step out of your comfort zone and help build healthy vibrant churches, where the saved and unsaved alike can come and drink deeply from the waters of Christ."
    Before the NAMB presentation, Reccord also presented the formal report of the North American Mission Board which highlighted a few of the initiatives currently under way, including announcements:
    -- of Seattle and Philadelphia as Strategic Focus Cities for 2002. Chicago and Phoenix are the cities targeted for the effort in 2000, while Las Vegas and Boston have been selected for 2001.
    -- that 24 of Southern Baptists' largest mega-church pastors have committed their churches to sponsoring a new "flagship" congregation in one of the nation's largest cities.
    -- That NAMB recently was awarded a license under a Federal Communications Committee lottery for a low-power television station in San Diego, Calif. This would be the only Christian television station in the area. NAMB provides television programming through its FamilyNet network as well as other projects of its Fort Worth, Texas,-based Broadcast Communications Group.

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