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Humanitarian Disaster Institute to Host 4th Annual Disaster Ministry Conference

WHEATON, Ill., June 1, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — The Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) will host the 4th annual Disaster Ministry Conference at the Meyer Science Center on the campus of Wheaton College on June 7-10, 2016.

“The purpose of our conference is to equip church and lay leaders to lead their congregations in preparing for disasters and in serving those affected, as well as to foster collaboration between churches and other organizations,” said Dr. Jamie Aten, HDI’s founder and co-director, Dr. Arthur P. Rech and Mrs. Jean May Rech Associate Professor of Psychology, at Wheaton College.

The event will feature global leaders in the fields of disaster ministry, emergency management, humanitarian aid, public health and mental health. “Caring for the Vulnerable” is this year’s theme. In alignment with the theme, topics to be addressed will include discussions on refugee care, meeting the unique needs of people with disabilities and of children during and following disasters and more.

“Disasters are unrelenting in this fallen world-whether it’s tsunamis, hurricanes or active shooters, there always seems to be something that calls for a response from the people of God. HDI has become a global leader in helping the church respond to humanitarian disasters of all kinds,” said Dr. Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College.

Bishop Efraim Tendero, secretary general/CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, will be the keynote speaker this year. “This conference is vital to help the church understand how it can better be the hands and feet of Jesus in a disaster,” he said. “I look forward to sharing my heart with attendees and know that God is going to use the vital information that both I and my fellow conference speakers have to share in order to help ministries wrap their heads around what it takes to minister to their communities after a disaster.”

With a special focus on the current refugee crisis as a result of the atrocities taking place in the Middle East, the conference will also offer several breakout sessions, a workshop, and a special event/panel on the Church and the Refugee Crisis led by Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research and well-known speaker, author and radio show personality.

Featured speakers also include the following experts: Sheryl Haw, international director for Micah Global; Kent Annan, author of Slow Kingdom Coming and co-director and co-founder of Haiti Partners; Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, health psychologist and owner/editor-in-chief of Praeclarus Press; Hugh Heinrichsen, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Redeemer’s Fellowship who will be talking about his church’s response to the Umpqua Community College mass shooting and Rev. David Myers, director of the Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“With expertise from speakers on topics critical to providing care for the vulnerable, participants will gain new knowledge, skills and networks for effectively leading their congregations in developing disaster ministries and becoming more resilient,” said Dr. Aten.

For a full list of speakers and the conference schedule visit: Continuing education credits are available for  mental healthprofessionals.*

HDI is the first social science research center in the country devoted to the study of faith and disasters. More information about the Humanitarian Disaster Institute is available at

*Wheaton College has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 4597. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Wheaton College is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.


Millions Expected to Head Back to Church Sept. 16 in Response to Personal Invitations

National Back to Church Sunday

National Back to Church Sunday Draws Participation of More than 12,000 Congregations across the Country

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. – On Sept. 16 millions of Americans are expected to take a bold step to return to church based on an invitation from a friend, family member, coworker or neighbor. National Back to Church Sunday, the largest collaborative outreach in the nation, provides the potential for people not only to find a church and deepen their relationship with God, but also to form lasting personal relationships.

With more than 12,000 churches registered to participate, people looking for a church in their community can search the National Back to Church Sunday roster online (

Research reported by Thom Rainer in “The Unchurched Next Door” shows 82 percent of the unchurched are at least “somewhat likely” to respond positively to an invitation to attend church. “Nothing can surpass the effect of the personal invitation,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a supporting partner of National Back to Church Sunday.

Congregations across America are customizing National Back to Church Sunday to their own communities to reach people who no longer attend.

In Powder Springs, Ga., where church leaders estimate that 88 percent of their community does not attend church, Burnt Hickory Baptist Church offers their congregation a four-week Family Prayer Walk guide leading up to Sept. 16.  Beginning in August, weekly emphases have been directing families as they walk through their neighborhoods, pray for the residents, and look for opportunities to interact with neighbors in conversations and relationship-building.

“God’s heart is that Burnt Hickory families have a significant spiritual impact on their neighbors,” said Mike Stephens, senior pastor. “Prayer-walking is a simple discipline that our families can incorporate into their lives to develop a heart for those living around them and a greater understanding of what may be happening in their lives – all while taking a walk with our kids, getting exercise and sharing with them the importance of caring for others.”

The four-week prayer walk culminates in a commitment to invite neighbors to National Back to Church Sunday Sept. 16.

“National Back to Church Sunday is not a quick-fix or one-time solution. It is an opportunity for Christians to share ongoing grace and acceptance,” said Philip Nation, director of adult ministry publishing at LifeWay Research and spokesperson for National Back to Church Sunday. “Sept. 16 can be the portal for people to find their way not only back to church, but into to a loving, accepting church family where real relationships are built.”

To begin building these relational bridges, many churches are planning social events, in addition to their worship services on Sept. 16.  Aboite Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., will host breakfast for interaction between the congregation and their guests. Citylight Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., is providing live music, face-painting for children, catered food and sporting activities.

The movement is also spreading to Canada. Zion Christian Reformed Church in Oshawa, Ontario, will participate in National Back to Church Sunday by hosting a concert with award-winning worship artist Hiram Joseph of Toronto.

Last year more than 7,600 congregations across America extended an estimated one million personal invitations for National Back to Church Sunday. Participating churches reported on average an increase of 25 percent in attendance on that Sunday.  Since its inception, more than 5 million invitations from more than 12,000 churches have been given.

Resources to help churches equip their members to invite others to rediscover church are still available ( Social media such as “e-vites” ( and Facebook ( make it possible to extend invitations until the last minute.

National Back to Church Sunday ( is the single largest annual community outreach in the nation, sharing the simple message and mission of inviting everyone in America back to church. The campaign empowers churches and church members with the tools they need to welcome their neighbors, friends and loved ones back to church, while providing the unchurched an easy way to find a welcoming church in their community.

LifeWay Christian Resources (, in operation since 1891, is one of the largest Christian resource organizations in the world. LifeWay Research exists for the purpose of equipping church leaders with insight that will lead to greater levels of ministry effectiveness through research-based books and reports based on statistically validated surveys. LifeWay Research is one of the most trusted sources of information about the church, culture and faith.

‘The Gospel Project’ focuses on Jesus

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Writers and editors of LifeWay Christian Resources‘ newest Bible study curriculum approached their task with a singular focus—to draw attention to Jesus.

While seemingly stating the obvious, there was much more to consider, said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project, a new multigeneration, Gospel-centered Bible study.

“The Gospel Project is more than curriculum,” Wax said. “The church is God’s Gospel project; we are His project.”

“It’s possible to scour and search the Scriptures and miss the point,” he said. “It’s easy to come to Scripture looking for just new information or immediate application. We can even have Bible knowledge and not be focused on Christ.”

Wax explained that The Gospel Project examines the breadth of the Bible and seeks to reveal to participants how every story, every theological concept and missional truth points to Jesus.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, serves as general editor for The Gospel Project.

“Exploring the riches of what God has done for us in Christ takes effort, but the reward is incalculable,” Stetzer said. “In studying the Scriptures, we encounter Jesus Christ.

“The message we all need is the Gospel—and that message is for unbelievers and believers alike,” said Stetzer. “The apostle Paul says it’s the message ‘by which we are being saved.'”

According to Wax, “The goal of The Gospel Project is to provide a theologically driven study that points people to Jesus. The Gospel Project shows that the Gospel is central to our daily lives. Not that it just saves us, but it also sustains us.

“God uses the Gospel to move us along; He uses the Gospel in our hearts and lives to move our feet out ‘on mission,'” said Wax.

Stetzer and Wax brought together a team of church leaders and scholars from across the country who offered counsel regarding the development and direction of the curriculum. The Gospel Project’s advisory council included:

  • D.A. Carson—Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Ill.
  • Matt Chandler—Pastor at The Village, Dallas
  • James MacDonald—Senior Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel, Chicago
  • Daniel Akin—President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
  • J.D. Greear—Pastor at The Summit Church, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Eric Mason—Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship, Philadelphia
  • Kimberly Thornbury—Dean of Students at Union University, Jackson, Tenn.
  • Jay Noh—Director of Missional Leadership and Mobilization, Chicago Baptist Association
  • Joe Thorn—Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship, St. Charles, Ill.
  • Juan Sanchez—Pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas
  • Collin Hansen—Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition / Editor-at-Large, Christianity Today

“We brought together a group of scholars, pastors and church leaders to speak into this project at the outset,” Stetzer said. “We received direction regarding the topics we would cover, the approach we would take—Christ-centered, mission-driven, shaped around the narrative of God’s redemptive plan—and the level of accessibility we should strive for. It’s important to hear from people in a variety of contexts who are serving the local church, and the advisory council helped us think through important high-level issues at the outset of the curriculum’s development.”

Matt Chandler, pastor at The Village Church in Dallas recently said, “One of the things I love about The Gospel Project is that it is going to shine a light on so many of these great [Bible] stories that we know and show ultimately how they are leading us to worship God more for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ and what God accomplished in the Gospel for us.”

The release of The Gospel Project marks the first time in more than a decade that LifeWay will release ongoing studies for children, students and adults under one theme, Wax noted.

The Gospel Project, slated for preorder in June, will feature a three-year study plan with 13-week units, each using an age-appropriate voice, depth and course of study. Bible study resources will be available in multiple formats, such as print, downloadable, as well as e-reader and mobile app formats.

Samples of the new LifeWay Bible study are available at