April 2015

MBTS launches FTC.co website resource

April 23 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) launched the website, FTC.co, April 22 with the goal of providing gospel-centered resources intended to engage, encourage and equip those ministering within the local church.
The site, which will be overseen by managing editor, Jared Wilson, will host blogs, articles, practical application tools and many other resources to assist current pastors, ministry leaders and lay men and women in their ministry roles.


“Our primary goal in establishing FTC.co is to provide church leaders, from all walks of ministry life, with gospel-centered resources that are pastoral, practical and devotional,” said Jason Allen, MBTS president. “In doing so, we intend for the site to be relevant to the needs of the church and its leaders as well. Because the Bible is always relevant, our content will be well-sourced and grounded in God’s inerrant, authoritative Word.”
Contributing to the site’s resources will be writers and speakers from both inside the seminary and out.
“We have a variety of individuals participating as regular contributors,” said Charles Smith, MBTS vice president of Institutional Relations. “We will definitely glean from the experience and research base of many of our seminary’s professors and administrators. There will also be significant contributions from people with experience in pastoral ministry positions or in other organizational ministry roles. A few will be thoughtful Christian lay leaders who write extremely well. You will find most of the contributions come from those in pastoral ministry, though.”
The primary content type will be written pieces – articles published in blog format. However, the site will also feature video resources – both short form and long form – interviews, sermons, and conference talks. The content will be featured in ways that generally represent three major categories: pastoral, practical and devotional. There are also plans to experiment with long-form articles.
The pastoral category will feature pieces generally written by current ministry leaders that are focused toward their peers. The intent of the articles, Wilson said, is to provide gospel-centered encouragement “to those eager to see the church grow in spirit and mission, and to glorify Jesus Christ.”
Other works will focus on the practical aspects of ministry. The idea is to provide a plan for addressing problems or issues in the Christian life or ministry, Wilson said. “Our writers are seeking to diagnose the heart of the issue and root their application in the finished work of Christ,” he added.
The final general category on the site consists of the devotional aspects of ministers’ lives. “The content here is developed to help our readers treasure Christ more greatly, know Him more deeply and orient them around His gospel more stubbornly. These biblical reflections, theological meditations, and spiritual illustrations are designed to help our readers enjoy grace and delight in God,” Wilson noted.
Additionally, great effort will be placed on keeping fresh material on the site. “The website will feature new content daily, so there will always be something new on the site for visitors and subscribers,” Smith said. “We encourage our reader base to check back in often for fresh resources to assist them in ministry.”
Wilson, who has experience both in ministry leadership and in published authorship/writing, will be responsible for the overall editorial vision of the site, to recruit writers and solicit articles, to edit submissions and to contribute content as well.
“My primary goal moving forward is to help establish that FTC.co is a widely-read and greatly trusted resource for those seeking encouragement in the gospel,” Wilson said. “There is a lot of noise out there, especially for Christians seeking biblical nourishment. I’d love to carve out a niche for ourselves as a place where Christian leaders can always count on being fed and encouraged. I don’t think one can have enough good news.”
In addition to FTC.co going live online, MBTS plans to host upcoming events to bring its emphasis on existing for the church to bear both locally and around the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
During the SBC’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, the seminary will host an FTC regional conference luncheon, entitled “FTC at SBC.” The event will take place on Tuesday, June 16 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. The 90-minute event will feature Allen, Matt Carter, Mark Dever, Ronnie Floyd, Paige Patterson, Jared Wilson and others. To register for “FTC at SBC,” visit.
Additionally, on Aug. 31-Sept. 1, MBTS will hold its second annual For the Church Conference on its Kansas City campus. The two-day event will have the theme, “For the Church & Truth,” based on 1 Timothy 3:15, and is designed to equip and encourage pastors and leaders for the Church. Joining Allen will be H.B. Charles, Russell Moore, Darrin Patrick, David Platt, Jared Wilson and worship led by August Gate. To register for this event, visit.
(EDITOR’S NOTE T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

4/23/2015 10:59:28 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments

Global adoptions decline; Show Hope begins new strategy

April 23 2015 by Sarah Padbury, World News Service

International adoptions plummeted to a 30-year low for U.S. citizens last year, with further declines expected. But some see the trend as an opportunity to help children remain in their home countries.
The U.S. State Department released its Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions in March. Between October 2013 and September 2014, officials granted 6,441 immigrant visas to children adopted abroad, the lowest level since 1984. A tidal wave of international adoptions started in the late 1990s and reached its peak in 2004, with almost 23,000 children adopted internationally that year. After a slow decline, adoptions began plummeting in 2009 and are expected to continue to fall due to other countries’ fluctuating policies toward intercountry adoption. Political and social change can halt adoptions – sometimes overnight – that have been in process for years.


China, Russia and Ethiopia are the top three countries Americans have adopted from during the last six years.
Adoptions from China totaled 2,040 last year, down 96 percent from a peak of almost 14,500 children in 2005. The decline is mostly attributed to the Chinese government promoting domestic adoption over the last few years, the report said. Nationalist sentiment has also fed the trend. Today, Americans can expect to stand in line for at least eight years to be matched with a healthy baby, according to a representative from Chinese Children Adoption International. The wait is so long, the organization has stopped taking applications for healthy children and instead focuses on placing special-needs children.
On Jan. 1, 2013, Russia abruptly instituted a federal law banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. The policy change left in legal limbo hundreds of children already in the adoption process, including many who had already met their new parents. Officials granted only two immigrant visas to Russian children adopted by Americans in 2014, down from about 9,400 in 2004. Russia’s move was widely reported to be retaliation for a law U.S. President Barack Obama signed a few weeks earlier, imposing travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.
Fifty-six percent of the Russian public supported the ban, Russia’s RIA-Novosti news agency told CNN at the time. Russian officials claimed a few well-publicized stories of Russian adoptees abused or abandoned by their new American parents, as well as the alleged deaths of 19 adopted Russian children since the 1990s, turned public sentiment against the idea of having foreigners adopt their orphans.
Ethiopian adoptions peaked more recently in 2010, with 2,511 children finding new homes in America. But adoptions have declined steadily, with only 716 last year, a 72 percent decrease over the last five years. U.S. officials reported the decline was due in part to the Ethiopian government’s tightening control of the intercountry adoption process. But Ethiopian officials also want to reduce the overall number of children in institutionalized care by strengthening the country’s child welfare system. They recently reached out to the international community, asking for assistance creating systems that help preserve families, promote family reunification, train foster parents and encourage domestic adoption.
Show Hope, a Christian non-profit that offers adoption grants to Americans, has awarded about 5,000 grants over the last decade to help families pay for fees accrued while adopting internationally or domestically. But this year, Show Hope initiated a new strategy to help other nations develop better in-country child welfare systems, Executive Director Mike Hamilton told me. The pilot program provides financial assistance for local child welfare staff development by partnering with reputable organizations, including Buckner International in Kenya and Bethany Christian Services in Ethiopia.
Historically, Hamilton said, Americans have thought about adoption in the context of adopting international children into American families: “But the first hope is that children who are orphaned can stay in their family of origin. If that’s not an option, then that they can stay in their country of birth.”
International adoption should be the final option, Hamilton said, when no domestic family is available. With the new program, donors can help fund development of in-country adoption systems.
“This just makes sense due to declining rates,” Hamilton said of international adoption. “And it meets the overall goal, which is to help children find forever families.”

4/23/2015 10:54:10 AM by Sarah Padbury, World News Service | with 0 comments

BSC sponsors historical writing competition

April 23 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Each year the Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) sponsors an historical writing competition.
One of the tasks of the Historical Committee is to encourage churches, associations, institutions and agencies who are affiliated with the BSC to preserve historical documents, artifacts, correspondence and records. Closely related to this task is to encourage churches, associations, etc. to produce a “high standard history of individuals, churches, associations and conventions.”
The competition was established to recognize and reward excellent historical publications.
There are three categories: church history,* association history (includes agencies and institutions); and biography, autobiography, memoirs and personal reflection. For the 2015 competition, the entries should have been released in 2014 or 2015.*
To enter your history book, DVD, etc., mail two copies to: BSC, History Committee, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC  27512-1107.
The deadline for submission is June 30. Winners will be recognized at the 2015 Baptist State Convention Annual Meeting.
Questions? Please contact Norma Jean Johnson at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5618, or njohnson@ncbaptist.org.
All entries become the property of the BSC Historical Committee and will be added to the N.C. Baptist Historical Collection (also known as the Ethel Taylor Crittenden Collection in Baptist History) at Wake Forest University.
For more information about the collection, visit: zsr.wfu.edu/special/collections/nc-baptist-historical-collection/.

*Older church histories can qualify if additional work has been done to bring them current to this date, and have not been previously submitted.

4/23/2015 10:46:47 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Grateful friends mark Henry Blackaby’s 80th

April 22 2015 by Lee Weeks, Baptist Press

How do you celebrate the life and ministry of an “ordinary” man used by God to launch church planting movements around the world, disciple Christian denominations, counsel internationally-renowned ministry leaders, mentor CEOs of billion-dollar companies, and reform the culture of one of America’s most violent prisons?
You do what that same ordinary man has done daily throughout his ministry – draw near to God through prayer and Bible study.
Such was the emphasis during a two-day celebration of Henry Blackaby’s 80th birthday at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., as hundreds of people recommitted themselves to God’s call on their lives while also paying tribute to the author of the widely influential Experiencing God – Knowing and Doing the Will of God.
Since its debut in 1990, the discipleship study has been translated into more than 45 languages and sold more than 7 million copies. And yet the miraculous multiplied effect of its influence worldwide finds its roots in the early morning devotional time of an obscure Canadian Southern Baptist pastor whose own teenage daughter was battling cancer.


Photo by Turner PhotoDesign
Henry Blackaby, author of “Experiencing God,” and his wife Marilynn enjoy a lighthearted moment during a two-day celebration of his 80th birthday at an Atlanta-area church where his son Mel is pastor.

“This is an ordinary person who rises early to meet an extraordinary God,” said Richard Blackaby, the eldest of five children, president of Blackaby Ministries International (BMI) and coauthor of the revised edition of Experiencing God, released in 2007.
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, called Blackaby “a prophet of God” who has “taught millions and millions [of people] to say, ‘Speak Lord, Your servant is hearing.’ And he’s taught us how to position ourselves where we can hear the call of God and experience the call of God on our lives.”
Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola for the past 20 years, credited Experiencing God with setting hundreds of death row inmates and “lifers” spiritually free.
More than 2,000 inmates at the prison near Baton Rouge, La., have completed the 12-week study – helping spawn a 73 percent decrease in prison violence. “Experiencing God changed the culture of the prison,” Cain said. Now, hundreds of inmates are part of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s extension program within the prison.
Claude King, who coordinated the editing of Experiencing God for its publisher Lifeway Christian Resources, recounted that assimilating Blackaby’s pre-dawn devotional writings and teachings for publication revolutionized his biblical worldview.
“I realized so much of what I said was man-centered rather than God-centered,” King said.
Blackaby said he was never interested in simply writing another Bible study course. “I told Claude King, God’s people don’t need another course book,” he said during the April 17-18 gathering. “Is there another way we can write this so it won’t be just another course, but will become a deep experience with God just in the process of studying? That’s the one comment I hear more than any other – ‘This study became the deepest experience with God I’ve ever known.’ Please understand that’s what we prayed.”
Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., said Blackaby is one of his heroes.
“I am a byproduct of your life and your ministry,” Hunt said. “Thank you Henry for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed.”


Photo by Turner PhotoDesign
“Experiencing God,” first published in 1990, opened doors for international ministry for Henry Blackaby, whose 80th birthday was celebrated in an Atlanta-area gathering of friends April 17-18.

Hunt cited an Experiencing God principle he’s employed over the last 28 years at First Baptist Woodstock: “God is not our servant to bless our plans and desires. He is our Lord and we must adjust our lives to what He is doing and to His ways.”
To that end, Hunt said the Atlanta-area church he leads had commissioned its 136th family to the international mission field and has started 120 new churches.
“When you labor where [God] is already at work, He accomplishes His purposes through you,” Hunt said in citing another principle from Experiencing God.
Mel Blackaby, Henry and Marilynn’s third son and pastor of First Baptist in Jonesboro, said his parents’ track record in ministry reflects the biblical principles taught in Experiencing God.
As in 1970, when Blackaby resigned as pastor of a large church in Downey, Calif., to become pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Over the next 12 years, the once-dying church grew from 10 members to a thriving congregation that launched 38 mission churches as well as the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and College.
In the early 1980s as a director of missions in Vancouver, British Columbia, Blackaby led an evangelistic initiative that resulted in 20,000 people professing faith in Christ during the World’s Fair.
Before retiring at the age of 65 as director of the North America Mission Board’s Office of Prayer and Spiritual Awakening, Blackaby had also served as an adviser to the presidents of the International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.
And over the last 15 years through Blackaby Ministries International, he has provided spiritual counsel to countless pastors, missionaries and corporate executives around the world as well as former President George W. Bush.
“The most profound contribution of Henry Blackaby may not be what he has already written or spoken but what will be done in the future because of his life,” Richard Blackaby said.
At the birthday celebration, Richard Blackaby announced the establishment of the Henry Blackaby Legacy Fund which has a goal of $2 million of which $250,000 has already been pledged.
“His five children and 14 grandchildren will continue to serve the Lord and Blackaby Ministries International will continue to promote biblical teaching on the Christian life to churches around the world,” Richard Blackaby said. “God has mightily confirmed BMI’s global plans to sustain my dad’s legacy as we continue to challenge church and marketplace leaders in joining God where He is at work.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lee Weeks is a writer based in the Atlanta area.)

4/22/2015 1:35:48 PM by Lee Weeks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Obama urged to name envoy for religious minorities

April 22 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has joined a diverse coalition in urging President Barack Obama to act quickly to name a special envoy to help protect religious adherents in the Middle East and south-central Asia.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, signed on to a letter sent April 20 by the International Religious Freedom Roundtable calling for the appointment of the envoy eight months after the position was created by a new law. Obama signed the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act Aug. 8 but has yet to fill the post.
Meanwhile, religious repression or persecution of Christians and others has continued or increased in such countries as Iraq, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan. Under the law, a special envoy’s duties would include monitoring religious freedom conditions in the regions and recommending responses by Washington to violations of religious rights.
In the letter, the signers say, “[D]iscrimination, repression and outright violence against religious minorities [have] only escalated” since the bill became law.


Screen capture from CNN.com
A 30-minute propaganda video released by ISIS on Sunday shows 30 Ethiopian Christians being executed by the terrorist group.

“We respectfully request that you swiftly fill the position,” the letter says. “Doing so would signal to beleaguered communities in the Middle East, and beyond, that America stands with them.”
Among the religious communities victimized by Islamic extremists in particular in the Near East – also known as the Middle East – and south-central Asia are Christians, Yazidis in Iraq, Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan and Baha’is in Iran. The existence of entire religious movements is threatened in some countries, such as Iraq and Egypt.
The letter cites the following among the violations of religious liberty:

  • The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has carried out a murderous campaign in both countries that has resulted in displacement, forced conversion, rape, kidnapping and death for Christians, Yazidis and others.

  • Suicide bombers struck Christian worship services in two churches March 15 in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 15 and seriously injuring 70.

  • Iran has imprisoned about 100 Baha’is and has kept Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini in prison for more than two years.

ISIS also has executed Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians in Libya. The latest executions – this time of about 30 Ethiopians – were shown on videos released online April 19.
“The crisis facing Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities in countries like Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Iran cannot be overstated,” said recently retired congressman Frank Wolf, a leading advocate for global religious freedom while in the House of Representatives and cofounder of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.
In a written statement, Wolf said a special envoy “is long overdue.”
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission announced in February its agenda for 2015 includes the appointment of a special envoy by Obama.
In addition to Moore, other individuals who signed the letter were Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University; Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom; Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project of the Berkley Center at Georgetown University; Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation; and Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern.
Swett and George also are members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Among the organizations that endorsed the letter were Open Doors USA, American Center for Law and Justice, Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Institute on Religion and Democracy, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, Institute for Global Engagement, Coptic Solidarity, Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, Church of Scientology National Affairs Office, Universal Muslim Association of America and American Humanist Association.
The International Religious Freedom Roundtable – a loosely organized group of non-governmental organizations that meets regularly for conversations about religious liberty overseas – sent the letter in support of one the previous week from congressional members of both parties and both houses that asked Obama to name a special envoy soon.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/22/2015 1:25:54 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Egypt’s president pressured toward reform

April 22 2015 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Egypt’s president, who challenged senior Muslim clerics to reform their teachings rather than fuel extremist ideologies, now is being challenged by observers who say he lacks a formal plan for moving toward a moderated Islam.
Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s speech, though hailed by Westerners as courageous, will do little to help his nation’s persecuted Coptic Christians and others if strong action related to the rhetoric is not realized, said Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.
“Neither Sisi nor the Egyptian state has a strategy to combat extremism,” Tadros wrote for The American Interest April 2. “Indeed the official religious establishment ... quickly downplayed the call for religious reform, launching instead ‘a national campaign aiming at correcting the image of Islam through social media, foreign visits, and publications.’
“Such efforts are unlikely to result in anything meaningful – much less a religious revolution,” wrote Tadros, a graduate of the American University in Cairo and an expert on religious freedom in Egypt.
Mike Edens, professor of theology and Islamic studies and associate dean of graduate studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said Tadros “is reporting what is the status quo, which is intolerable for Egyptian Christians.”


Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi

Coptic Christians, the largest religious minority, are estimated at 6 percent or more of Egypt’s 82 million people.
“Their status in their own country as second-class citizens is longstanding, although the present situation is chaotic and probably degrading,” said Edens, who spent more than 20 years as a missionary among Muslims.
A thorough change in Islamic standards is needed in Egypt, Edens said, and Sisi’s call for the professors at Al Azhar to reform their message was an important step in that process.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood retaliated against Egyptian Christians for supporting the ouster of divisive Muslim President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Morsi was convicted April 21 of using excessive force against protesters and sentenced to 20 years in prison, as were 12 Brotherhood leaders and Islamist supporters, for attacks outside his palace in December 2012 that resulted in at least 10 deaths.
Edens recounted that when he last lived in Cairo in the 1990s, “no professor would have espoused interpretations of the Quran which aligned with Sayyid Qutb, a Muslim Brotherhood intellectual executed in 1968.”
“In recent visits this has radically changed, with several Al Azhar professors agreeing with his views,” Edens said. “The situation is dire.”
A good place to launch a religious revolution is in Egypt’s schools, Tadros said, describing Egypt’s current educational system as “an incubator for extremism and radicalization.”
“This radicalization includes increasing intolerance towards non-Muslims and hostility towards the outside world,” Tadros wrote. “Egypt is a breeding ground for local and international terrorism.”
To see meaningful change in Egyptian society, the government must bring the schools currently run by Al-Azhar – the influential university where Sisi delivered his speech – under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, Tadros said.
“While extremism and intolerance has grown in all segments of Egyptian society and Sisi’s call for confronting extremism requires a comprehensive counter initiative that involves civil society, the media, and religious institutions,” Tadros wrote, “any attempt to address extremism must begin with the educational system.”
In an opinion piece for Fox News March 31, Tadros challenged Sisi to back his calls for moderation by protecting Christians in Egypt.
After the beheadings of 20 Coptic Christian migrant workers on a Libyan beach, Sisi ordered the construction of a church bearing their name in the hometown of 13 of the victims, Tadros noted.
Instead, the proposed church in Al Our “has become a symbol of the Egypt Sisi claims is no more – an Egypt in which Christians suffer violence for their religion and are treated as second-class citizens,” wrote Tadros, author of Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity.
At the end of March, an angry mob threw Molotov cocktails and stones at the church and homes of one of the beheading victims and other Christians.
Members of the mobs persecuting Copts “are not necessarily members of the Muslim Brotherhood or of other Islamist groups, or even personally all that religious,” Tadros wrote. “Permitting Christians to build a church simply is now widely perceived by Muslim villagers in Egypt as an insult to them and to Islam.”
That local authorities have created a climate of impunity for such violence to breed is most disturbing, Tadros said. Instead of punishing the mob, the governor ordered a reconciliation session between the Muslims and the Christians – and then banished the proposed church to the village outskirts, Tadros reported.
“President Sisi has courageously spoken of a need for a religious revolution and of the need to change the religious discourse fueling hatred,” Tadros wrote. “He has similarly spoken of saving the Egyptian state from collapsing like others in the region.
“If Sisi is serious about both, then he must turn his words into actions by upholding the rule of law, prosecuting those attacking Christians, and offering police protection for the Christians of Al Our,” Tadros wrote.
A week after the Copts of Al Our were attacked, Tadros wrote for National Review April 6 that Copts in El Galaa were similarly persecuted. Christians there had asked the government for permission to build a new structure to replace their crumbling old church building, and for years they were denied, he wrote.
“Religious fanatics in the village prevented its construction by building a mosque next to the new church’s designated location,” Tadros wrote. “Egyptian law prohibits houses of worship from being built next to each other. Building a mosque next to the location of a proposed church has been a common method used to prevent churches from being built.”
The government also demanded that if the Christians were to proceed with a new building on their old location, it was to bear no outer symbols of Christianity, Tadros said. This included no dome, no cross, no tower and no bell, and the church’s entrance was required to be on a side street.
After local security forces refused to prosecute mobs attacking the group of Christians, the attacks escalated, Tadros wrote. “Rocks were thrown at Christian homes, and some shops owned by Christians were looted. Seven Copts were wounded in the [most recent] attack.”
Again, Tadros emphasized the need for Egypt’s top official to intervene.
“If Sisi is serious with his talk of protecting the Egyptian state from falling into the same chaos that has overtaken much of the region, he needs to start by implementing the rule of law and protecting Copts.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)

4/22/2015 1:19:28 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Panel says Christian view of end times should influence daily life

April 22 2015 by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS Communications

A biblical view of eschatology shapes faithful ministry in the present, said panelists during an April 14 event hosted by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at The Gospel Coalition (TGC) National Conference, held April 13-15 in Orlando.
“In my lifetime, eschatology has gone from an argument to a debate to a necessary way of life,” Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said, describing the theological climate change from his childhood to the present. “Our life and ministry right now makes no sense unless everything that is promised about that coming King is true.”


Albert Mohler

The panel discussion examined issues pertaining to eschatology, a Christian view of the end times, in conjunction with the TGC National Conference theme, “Coming Home: New Heaven and New Earth.” More than 6,000 church leaders, laymen and students from all 50 states and 50 countries attended the three-day conference.
Joining Mohler on the panel: Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Miguel Núñez, senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Internacional in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and president of Wisdom & Integrity Ministries; David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando; and moderator Matthew J. Hall, vice president of academic services at Southern Seminary.
Moore, whose Ph.D. dissertation at Southern Seminary focused on the kingdom of God, said eschatology should drive people to the church where Christ is presently reigning until his return. According to Moore, the church in the present age is a source of hope to Christians as a glimpse of heaven and a witness to unbelievers inviting them to inherit the kingdom of God.
“The primary thing that eschatology has to do for us is to remind us that we’re part of this big, global body of Christ,” Moore said, “and to give us a sense of confidence and of the right sort of disturbed tranquility.” Moore, former dean of Southern’s School of Theology and senior vice president of academic administration, defined “disturbed tranquility” as the groaning of the fallen world and the peace anchored in Christ’s accomplishments.
Among the implications of the church in eschatology, Moore said, are how the church disciplines its members, administers the Lord’s Supper, and gathers for worship on Sunday.
“Eschatology isn’t just something we have fixed out there at the end of our Bibles or at the end of our doctrinal statements, it ought to be something we see lived out every single Sunday morning and in the mission of the church,” Moore said.
Núñez, who graduated from Southern with his D.Min. in December 2014, said many Christians are too focused on eschatology at the neglect of present age. How Christians live in the present is connected to their hope and belief in the Second Coming, Núñez said.
“In view of that end, we should be living in a more righteous way precisely because there is a coming King before whose throne we have to bow,” Núñez said.
Uth illustrated biblical eschatology with the 2011 college football regular season matchup between LSU and Alabama, which the Tigers won 9-6 in overtime. Although he recorded the game while at a church service, Uth said a church member told him the outcome before he could watch the replay. An LSU fan, Uth said that knowing the outcome allowed him to have confidence while watching the game when his team made costly mistakes.
“When you understand the ending, it changes everything,” Uth said. “From a pastor’s perspective, this is a great time to be a church – when there’s a chaos everywhere, when there’s confusion and the world seems to be in upheaval – man, this is a great time to hold this Book and say, ‘It’s going to be OK because we know the end.’”
The panelists also noted the lack of instruction Christians hear from the pulpit concerning eschatology and the need for discussing the issue biblically. Núñez described the rise of the prosperity gospel in places like Latin America and the need to confront the secularism of the movement that values material possessions over the eternal riches of God’s kingdom. Concluding the panel, Mohler praised evangelical efforts like the TGC National Conference in promoting a mature theological discussion on the issue of eschatology.
More information about the TGC National Conference and upcoming resources is available online at thegospelcoalition.org.

4/22/2015 1:13:09 PM by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Chip Luter embraces opportunity in Tampa

April 22 2015 by Bob Carey, Gardner-Webb Communications

Fred “Chip” Luter III has accepted a call as a campus pastor in Tampa, moving from New Orleans where he has served as youth minister under his father, former Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter.
Chip Luter will become pastor of the Sulphur Springs campus of Idlewild Baptist Church beginning May 1.


Photo by Bob Carey
Chip Luter and his father Fred Luter, a former SBC president, are beginning a new relationship, with Chip becoming a campus pastor in Florida after serving as youth minister under his father at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

Luter said he is excited about leading “a multi-ethnic congregation [that] has lots of youth and children, which has been the focus of my ministry. It was a hard decision to leave Franklin Avenue [Baptist Church], but the makeup of Sulphur Springs fits me and my ministry.”
Sulphur Springs, in the inner city of Tampa, is predominately African-American but is a racially diverse neighborhood that includes Hispanics and Anglos. It struggles with the highest crime rate in Hillsborough County.
The average age of Sulphur Springs is 32, with 70 percent of the neighborhood age 18 and younger.
Idlewild was blessed “when God gave us Chip and Jasmine Luter,” Idlewild senior pastor Ken Whitten said.
“Chip Luter understands the inner city and he understands the student population,” Whitten said. “He will have immediate identity and affinity in this neighborhood with these beautiful people. His winsome personality, gifted communication skills and passionate love for Jesus Christ and people make him the perfect fit for this ministry.”
The Sulphur Springs campus grew out of Idlewild’s Adopt a Block outreach during which 150 members visit the community every other weekend. They prayer-walk and knock on residents’ homes, inviting them to church, asking how they can pray for them and providing a range of help, from food and repairs to tutors in education. To support the Sulphur Springs campus, Idlewild will be launching an adult GED program and an outreach to students age 16-21 who have dropped out of school.


Photo by Bob Carey
Chip Luter prays during a father-son preaching engagement in South Carolina. Chip’s father, Fred Luter, a former SBC president, joins in prayer on the front row.

Luter said his preparation in his father’s church and the city of New Orleans has prepared him for the Sulphur Springs ministry.
“I love the fact that this community is so diverse. It will be a challenge, but I know this is where I’ve been called. I’ve had great training from my dad and believe my ministry at Sulphur Springs campus will grow,” Luter said. “I appreciate this opportunity and the support of Idlewild.”
The father and son preached together at the “Leaving a Legacy Bible Conference” hosted by Bellview Baptist Church in Laurens, S.C., in early April. During their sermons, both touched on the move for the younger Luter.
“Personally, I’m sad to see him go,” the senior Luter said, “but I’m excited about how God will use him in this ministry.
“I started my ministry at Franklin Avenue when I was 30 and Chip was 2 years old. Chip’s turned 30 and his son is 2, so he’s continuing the legacy of serving Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Carey is chairman of the department of communication and new media at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.)

4/22/2015 12:52:46 PM by Bob Carey, Gardner-Webb Communications | with 0 comments

N.C. leaders speak out on religious freedom

April 21 2015 by BR staff

U.S. news has been full of stories and debates about Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (also known as RFRAs). Controversial laws in Arkansas, Georgia and Indiana have received much attention in the past few weeks. North Carolina has a similar RFRA in the legislature now. Many Christians are concerned and want to know – How important is religious freedom? North Carolina Baptist leaders share their opinions.
Nathan Finn, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies and director of the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality: Historically, religious freedom has been a bedrock conviction among Baptists. In the past century, it has become a shared commitment among nearly every Christian tradition, including those that once curbed the religious freedom of others. More broadly, religious freedom is a basic civil right in our nation – indeed, it is one of the “first freedoms” enshrined in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For all of these reasons, I’m deeply concerned at the recent backlash against legislative proposals to protect religious freedom in states such as Indiana, Arkansas and Georgia. Opposition to religious freedom has rapidly become one of the most pressing issues in our nation.
Strong religious conviction of any kind – and especially traditional/orthodox Christian morality – is now viewed as intolerant to the degree it offers an alternative voice that challenges our culture’s idols of sex, money and power. North Carolina Baptists and others who care deeply about religious freedom cannot stand silent while our constitutional rights are undermined for the sake of celebrating anti-biblical sexualities, promoting corporate greed and endorsing amoral political correctness. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, we must remain faithful by offering a consistent, winsome and prophetic witness to biblical morality. And we must defend our constitutional rights to affirm those truths publicly, even if we find ourselves to be a moral minority in our increasingly decadent culture.


Phil Ortego, pastor of Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington:
In light of the recent firestorm over religious liberty, many Christians wonder why this is so important and how religious liberty affects them personally. Let me answer this in three brief points:

  1. Religious liberty has been the cornerstone of the American experience. From the very beginning the founders have stated the importance of religious faith in the foundation of our nation. James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution wrote, “We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.” John Adams wrote, “We have a government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” These were the overwhelming convictions of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

  2. Religious liberty is a catalyst for shaping the culture. Religious liberty is more than just having the opportunity to worship freely; it is the opportunity to live out our convictions in such a way that it impacts our culture. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity will change the face of the world.” Religious liberty not only allows us to worship freely, but to influence and shape our culture for Christ.

  3. Religious liberty protects against government’s intrusion into religion. Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association speaks about a wall of separation between church and state. His intention was to protect the free exercise of religious convictions, but not to remove Christian principles from government.

Without such foundational principles guiding our leaders and our nation, Christians will no longer have the freedom to speak their convictions or to refuse to participate in activities that are contrary to their religious convictions without fair and equal treatment. Therefore, we must protect our religious liberties.
Marty Jacumin, senior pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh: Our nation was founded on a belief of religious freedom for all people and has remained one of the key concepts that makes us a free people. As religious freedom erodes, the very nature of what it means to live in a free nation erodes with it.
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest: Religious freedom has always been one of the foundational rights in our society, and something that the founders of this nation deemed to be crucial. It is increasingly important in a day when the public square is in danger of shrinking. The simple request that the state protect the right to dissent on religious grounds has become more complicated, particularly as we navigate a fundamental disagreement over the definition of one word: marriage. We cannot walk away from the pursuit of biblical truth as expressed by our Lord through an inerrant Bible.
But just as I believe that the U.S. Constitution gives us the freedom and right to express belief, I also believe that the gospel frees us to love. We must continue to respect our neighbors and pursue civil discourse in an open public square. I will continue to affirm marriage as a covenantal, monogamous relationship between a man and a woman, but I also love every person regardless of their views or lifestyle and I am against any expression of hatred toward individuals. We can never stop standing for religious freedom, and we can never stop using that freedom in a way that honors our Lord. Our hope is in King Jesus. We must proclaim his gospel and extend His grace to others, grace that meets us where we are and transforms us into His image.
David Ethridge, minister to young adults at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh: Religious freedom is of paramount concern because the questions it enables us to explore – origin, meaning, morality, and destiny – are of eternal significance. Religious freedom secures the right to ask these questions, live one’s beliefs about the answers, and attempt to persuade others to embrace those beliefs, all free of coercion and intimidation.
Baptists have historically championed the notion of “a free church in a free state” as the best environment for propagation of the gospel in our fallen world. By granting adherents of other religions – or no religion at all – the right to their beliefs, we secure for ourselves the freedom to proclaim the gospel of our Lord in the public square, “instructing our opponents with gentleness” in hopes that “God will grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth.” Because the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” Christians do not need the state to accommodate us over other religions, but only to give us the freedom to proclaim the gospel in word and deed.
Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte: Religious freedom is at the heart of what it means to be American. The erosion of religious freedom happens to the cadence of goose-stepping jackboots in the distance. As believers, we will “go outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured.”
Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: Religious freedom is the bedrock of all civilly respected freedoms embedded in the U.S. Constitution and written into the Bill of Rights our founders required in order to support and pass our nation’s basic document in the first place. Religious freedom is called “the first freedom,” not as a matter of sequence, but as a matter of priority in relation to all other civilly respected freedoms. It was Baptists in the early years of our nation who most strongly insisted on including religious freedom in the Bill of Rights, and Baptists have continued to affirm its importance ever since.
Disputing the importance of religious freedom to common life in America is like disputing the importance of oxygen in the air we breathe. Removing or even diminishing its presence threatens the whole project and turns something very good into something very bad. It ruins the very thing that has enabled the American Constitution to hold a conglomerate of persons from disparate religions, cultures and convictions together over time. Diminishing religious liberty weakens the source of our national strength and leaves American common life vulnerable to disintegration.
The North Carolina Religious Freedom Restoration Act does nothing more than assure in North Carolina law what Federal law already guarantees at the national level. It merely keeps the coercive power of government from being used to force citizens to participate in or affirm behaviors God says are sinful and wrong. It does not deny access to services allowed by law, even if some regard them as sinful, and does not stop choices from being made with which others disagree. Rather, it only limits using government power in recognition that God transcends human government and people must be allowed to obey God rather than man.

Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby: Do I agree with the general intent of the RFRAs? Most definitely. However, it is the pastors not the politicians, it is the pulpit not politics that should bring this change about.

Religious freedom does not come from government. Rather, religious freedom comes from God. Thus, when we look to the government to pass Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), we are in a very precarious situation as a Church. Do we not realize that a government that passes a RFRA can also take away a RFRA?
Religious freedom cannot be restored by a government. It can only be restored when the Church sets an example of religious freedom and courage to the larger society. If we look to the government to perform the courageous duties that only we, the Church, can perform, then we are setting ourselves up for continued failure.
Why are we looking to politicians, when we should be looking to the power of the Holy Spirit? Why are we shamefully obeying the rulings of dictatorial secular judges, when we should humble ourselves before the Judge of all the earth and engage in civil disobedience? If we believe in the separation of Church and State, why do we look to the State to stand up for our religious freedoms?
For Christ’s sake, it’s time for the Church to stand up and tell the government, “Push off! We don’t need your politics! We will obey God rather than men!”

Day of Action

April 28 is planned as a Day of Action in Raleigh to support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Visit livefaithfullync.com for information about a visit with Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest and gathering at the Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh. N.C. Voters Coalition is sponsoring the event. RSVP at rsvp@ncvalues.org. Visit facebook.com/events/914578678563862/.

4/21/2015 11:35:05 AM by BR staff | with 1 comments

Baptisms in N.C. churches decline in 2014

April 21 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The number of baptisms reported by North Carolina Baptist churches fell more than 10 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the information provided by churches through the Annual Church Profile (ACP). The total number of believers baptized in 2014 is 18,111. That number is down from the 20,324 reported the previous year.
The top 105 churches in reported baptisms are listed on this page. The top 10 churches account for 19.8 percent of all N.C. baptisms with a total of 3,585. The 105 churches reported 7,761 baptisms or 42.9 percent of the state’s total.

4-21-15_baptisms_WEB.jpgClick image to view.

One or more baptisms was reported by 1,849 churches. A total of 789 reporting churches, or 18 percent, reported no baptisms.
Do these statistics tell the whole story? In reality, the grand totals may not be complete.
The only information available comes from churches who willingly provide data through the ACP. There are no other sources for this data. All of the information is self-reported by the churches.
According to the report 1,712 or 39.2 percent of the state’s 4,370 churches did not submit the ACP. In 2013 there were 441 churches that reported one or more baptisms, but did not provide any data in 2014. The fact is that reporting is incomplete – either by typographical error, omission, neglect or intentional rejection of the process. In Baptist life, each autonomous church determines what they will do with the ACP.
We would like to provide a list of baptisms by church size, but that information is incomplete as well. Many churches who provided baptism information did not report the number of members or worship attendance. Therefore, the Biblical Recorder cannot report information on baptisms by church size.

4/21/2015 11:25:04 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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