April 2015

Arrests of Cuban Christians remembered

April 14 2015 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness

A group of about 400 Baptists met April 7 at Iglesia Bautista Getsemaní in Miami to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrests of several pastors, missionaries and laity in the western part of Cuba by the Castro government.
 
“We do not come to make old scars bleed,” said Samuel Alemán, a pastor from Georgia and son of one of the pastors arrested, “but rather to celebrate as [God] was in control of what happened.”

 
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Of the 44 pastors who were arrested in 1965, 12 are still alive. Most live in the United States, with the exception of one who resides in Cuba.
 
The pastors were arrested on charges that included conspiracy against the security of the nation, illegal currency exchange, collaboration with the CIA, assisting people to leave the country illegally and proselytizing.
 
In a service that was marked by hymns and songs celebrating God’s faithfulness in the midst of difficulties, the children of those pastors shared their memories of the night of April 7, 1965, when officials of the Castro regime broke into their homes and took their fathers.
 
David Rodriguez shared how his father, Francisco Rodriguez, gave instructions to him and his mother while officers took his father out of the house. Others, like Alberto Ocaña, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Hialeah, Fla., did not wake up during their fathers’ arrest. But the next morning they faced the harsh reality that their fathers were gone.
 
Nearly half of the Baptist churches in the western part of Cuba were left without pastors for a couple of years, yet the churches survived.
 
“Most of the wives and deacons took over,” said Noel Lozano, pastor of Turning Point Miami and the son of an arrested pastor. “Some had to work in two and three churches to keep them open.”
 
In 1965 there were 89 Baptist churches in western Cuba with a total of 6,754 members. Although some believers did not continue attending church for fear of being arrested, the church grew and today there are 445 congregations with about 26,000 members in total. In addition, there are now nearly 2,000 house churches and 508 missions.
 
“Brothers, we crossed the Jordan River. ... We cannot forget how wonderful our God is,” said Pastor Alemán, after reading a passage from the book of Joshua.
 
Although that piece of Cuban Baptist history is bitter, Alemán and other pastors who spoke Tuesday night called for forgiveness.
 
“If there is any bitterness left, now is the time to forgive,” he urged. “Do not let it overshadow the joy of Lord.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Witness.)

4/14/2015 10:42:07 AM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments



Researchers develop pacemaker for unborn babies

April 14 2015 by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service

A team of researchers has developed the first pacemaker small enough to implant in an unborn baby’s heart, potentially offering an effective treatment for congenital heart blocks.

 
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©iStockPhoto.com/AngelIce

Though doctors can diagnose congenital heart blocks in utero, they’ve lacked an effective solution. Cardiologists have attempted to treat the defect with a modified adult pacemaker. They implanted part of the device in the baby’s heart while the rest of the device remained external. But the method continually failed, likely because babies’ movements would dislodge the pacemaker’s electrodes. The new device’s size eliminates that problem.
 
The researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) estimate the technology could aid up to 500 babies each year.
 
“This novel device provides a real opportunity to prevent miscarriage and premature birth in babies affected with these abnormalities,” Ramen H. Chmait, director of the CHLA-USC Institute for Maternal-Fetal Health, said.
 
Experts estimate congenital heart blocks occur in 1 out of 10,000 babies. In a healthy heart, an electrical signal moves between the upper and lower heart chambers causing the heart to contract and pump blood. But if a baby has a congenital heart block, the signal is interrupted and the baby’s heart rate slows.
 
The device has passed preclinical testing and optimization. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved it for use in humans, the journal Heart Rhythm reported. The research team expects the pacemaker will be implanted in an unborn baby soon.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Courtney Crandell writes for WORLD News Service, an affiliate of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com.)

4/14/2015 10:37:22 AM by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Once a fishing guide, now a CP-committed pastor

April 14 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, SBC LIFE

Jimmy Brown trusts the Lord whenever he goes fishing, whether the fishing hole is filled with lake water or the silt of an undredged life.
 
“I had never realized the similarities between fishing, soul-winning and pastoring,” said Brown, a former professional fishing guide on Kentucky Lake who has been pastor of Pilot Oak Baptist Church in western Kentucky since 2007.
 
Fishing may be fun but it’s also “hard work ... work you have to be persistent at,” he said.
 
Brown, who often speaks on fishing at outdoorsmen’s events and pastors’ conferences, has come to see numerous parallels between fishing for fish and fishing for people.

 

Evangelism, discipleship and missions

Pilot Oak, a rural church that averages about 100 in Sunday morning worship, baptized 13 people in 2013, and 18 the year before that, although the baptism total for 2014 was a bit lower.

 
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Photo courtesy of Pilot Oak Baptist Church
Pastor Jimmy Brown takes a team from seven churches in western Kentucky on the first-ever mission trip by Graves County Baptist Association, venturing to Muskogee, Okla.

“We have to take time to disciple those we win,” Brown said. “A lot of people like to fish, but don’t want to clean them.” Similarly, he said, “If I reach people but don’t disciple them, what have I accomplished? ... When we win someone to the Lord, that’s when the hard work begins. We need to get them established in the faith so they become productive, reproducing Christians.”
 
Brown also challenged Graves County Baptist Association, of which Pilot Oak Baptist is a part, to greater missions efforts. Since Brown became captain of the association’s missions and ministry team last year, they’ve gone on the first associational mission trip that he’s aware of.
 
“I began to talk it up, and last year we went to Muskogee, Okla.,” Brown said. “We did construction and a Vacation Bible School at the Murrow Children’s Home, led a backyard Bible club, surveyed for one church, and painted for another church,” he said. The team also did cleaning and organizational work at Bacone College, a liberal arts college originally established by the American Baptist Home Mission Society in 1880 to provide Christian education for Native Americans.
 
“The more involved we get in doing missions,” Brown said, “the stronger our churches here will become.”

 

Biblical stewardship

For several years prior to his arrival, Pilot Oak had reduced its Cooperative Program (CP) missions giving to $1,000 per year. Brown began reminding the church that the Cooperative Program is how Southern Baptist churches work together to fulfill the Great Commission through their state conventions, across North America and around the world. The money they give to missions through the Cooperative Program, he noted, extends Pilot Oak’s reach far beyond what the church could do on its own.
 
“The first meeting I had with the finance committee, I asked them if they thought people should tithe, and they all said yes,” Brown recounted. “Then I asked them, ‘Do you not think your church should tithe?’”
 
As the church prepared its 2009 budget, Brown led them to dedicate 3 percent of their undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, 2 percent to the Graves County Baptist Association and 5 percent for local benevolence “to minister to people in our community whether they’re members or not,” Brown said.
 
The CP percentage has increased a bit each year. Pilot Oak gave $1,000 in 2008. Five years later – in 2013 – it gave $13,744 through CP and $22,257 in total Great Commission Giving, according the church’s Annual Church Profile report. Brown reported the church gave 19.5 percent of its income to some type of cooperative ministry in 2014 and has raised its 2015 CP budget projection to 5.5 percent of undesignated receipts.
 
Members also began giving generously to Southern Baptists’ seasonal missions offerings. Last year the church received a congratulatory letter from Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board.
 
“We were the top per capita giving church for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in the entire Southern Baptist Convention,” Brown said. “We read it over and over and, yep, that’s what it says.
 
“I told [the church], ‘You are to be commended, but don’t stop,’” the pastor said. “They’re beginning to catch on about being Kingdom-focused.”

 

Local ministry

Last year, Pilot Oak bought a tool trailer to do construction missions, and has become known in its community as “the church that cares” because of its commitment to meeting local needs – whether it may be an unpaid electric bill, the need for a handicap ramp into someone’s house or some other pressing need.
 
By identifying with the residents of its rural farming community and being ready to help, members of Pilot Oak have become alert to seeing where God is at work and joining Him, Brown said, citing Henry Blackaby’s principle from Experiencing God.
 
“You’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes to earn the right to tell them about Jesus,” Brown said. Just like in fishing, “it takes time, effort, energy ... [but] when you do it like the Lord wants you to do it, it’s not hard....
 
“You’ve got to go out with the intention that we’re going to have fun; we’re going to fish all day, and at some time during the day we’re going to catch fish,” he said. “So just relax, fish, and enjoy it. God is going to give you fruits for your labor.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a writer based in Mapleton, Utah. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)

4/14/2015 10:30:29 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, SBC LIFE | with 0 comments



Floyd, 11 pastors to lead SBC ‘Call to Prayer’

April 14 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

For an “epic night of prayer” during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), 11 pastors have been named by SBC President Ronnie Floyd to help lead the Tuesday evening session, June 16, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the Ohio capital.
 
Floyd has titled the session, “A National Call for Prayer to All Southern Baptists for the Next Great Awakening and to Reach the World for Christ” on the opening night of the June 16-17 SBC annual meeting.

 
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“We will join together in the same room and around the world via technology for this one epic night of prayer,” Floyd wrote April 13 in his SBC President’s Page column.
 
Two former SBC presidents, Jack Graham and James Merritt, will be among the evening’s leaders. Graham is senior pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church; Merritt is lead pastor of the Atlanta-area Cross Pointe Church.
 
“It is time to call out to God for the next Great Awakening and to reach the world for Christ,” Floyd, pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, wrote. “On Tuesday night, June 16, we will give the entire evening session of the SBC Annual Meeting to this national prayer gathering. …
 
“We will gather to experience the presence of God based upon the Word of God. We will be challenged briefly by some of America’s great pastors, then launch into prayer sessions in response to God and His Word. We will also express our worship and praise to God together through music and singing.”
 
Floyd also noted, “One of the unique moments of the evening will be when we embrace and celebrate our ethnic diversity, which may also involve moments of repentance and reconciliation. Each of us needs to be in this experience together, letting God do a powerful work in each of our lives and churches. Southern Baptists must lead the way in embracing and celebrating our ethnic diversity.”
 
Encouraging messengers to shift their plans for dinner and fellowship in order to be in attendance, Floyd urged, “Please let nothing keep you from this extraordinary night of prayer together.”
 
He also noted, “If you live within driving distance of Columbus, Ohio, and can’t attend the entire conference, at least come for Tuesday night.”
 
The overall theme for the two-day annual meeting in Columbus is “Great Awakening: Clear Agreement, Visible Union, Extraordinary Prayer.”
 
In addition to Graham and Merritt, other leaders (in alphabetical order) scheduled for the session are Timmy Chavis, senior pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, N.C., and chairman of the SBC Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council; Steve Gaines, senior pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church; David Galvan, lead pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista - Nueva Vida in Dallas; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.; Vance Pittman, senior pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas; Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.; Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; and K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia and president of the National African American Fellowship.
 
Julio Arriola, global worship pastor for Cross Church, will lead the music, along with the church’s choir and band.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/14/2015 10:26:02 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Caution urged with YouTube Kids app

April 14 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Google’s new YouTube Kids app may be a welcomed addition to children-friendly entertainment, but parents should still study the programming before exposing their children to its content, some Baptist communicators say.
 
As more companies release these types of apps, parents need to determine whether an organization’s definition of “kid-friendly” matches their own definition, said Darrel Girardier, digital strategy director for Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn.
 
“I’m finding that while a good portion of the content is more okay for my child to consume, not all the content represents something that I want my child to model,” Girardier said. “Parents are going to need to spend [time] doing some additional curating with these apps and understand that the ‘default’ setting probably won’t cut it.”

 
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Google markets the free app, launched in February, as a method of safe and easy access to family-friendly shows, music and educational programs on topics of interest to children. It includes parental controls and has received favorable reviews on Google, averaging 4.1 out of 5. More than three-fourths of reviewers rated the app 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.
 
Michael Foust, a blogger about family issues and the father of three small children, also cautioned parents to be aware of the content available through the app.
 
“YouTube Kids, despite its innocent name, contains content that many conservative Christian parents would want their children to avoid,” said Foust, a former associate editor for Baptist Press. “A quick search provides videos on evolution, Islam and Hinduism. Like any other electronic gadget or new app, parental guidance is strongly encouraged.”
 
The app can be used constructively in parenting if proper caution is applied, Foust noted.
 
“I tested it, and it does indeed do a stellar job of filtering out the worst of YouTube. It even includes some good Christian content. That said, parents should not give their children blanket usage of YouTube Kids,” he said. “Most children already receive too much screen time, and YouTube Kids – like the adult version – can be extremely addictive. Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour watching pointless videos and chasing video rabbit trails – time better spent reading or playing outside.”
 
Girardier, Like Foust, considers the app a welcomed addition to kid-friendly programming options.
 
“It’s great to see more companies like Google and Netflix attempt to curate content that is deemed appropriate for children and package it in an easy … format,” he said.
 
Girardier offered additional cautions.
 
“Apps like these encourage parents to let these devices babysit their kids,” he said. “As a parent, I myself have handed my iPhone to my child so my wife and I could have a few moments of uninterrupted conversation.
 
“… These apps and devices reinforce the fact that the boundaries between us and media [are] continuing to fall,” he said, questioning whether children would be disciplined enough to take breaks from apps to maintain balance or perspective. “For our children, they won’t know what it’s like to be bored since entertainment is always at arms’ length.”
 
Google advertises YouTube Kids, available on Google Play and the App Store in the U.S., as the first Google product built from the ground up with children in mind. The app is said to have a bright and playful design and allows parents to control the length of time children can use the app, and sound and search settings.
 
“For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on all kinds of topics,” Google said in a press release announcing the new app. “Now, parents can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids. You can browse channels and playlists in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Or search for videos of particular interest to your family, like how to build a model volcano, math tutorials, the amazing (and endless) world of trains – and everything in between.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

4/14/2015 10:21:07 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist Press launches app with SBC versatility

April 13 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Baptist Press (BP), the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) news service, officially launched a free app April 13 connecting to its daily content and to key entities across SBC life.
 
The app is available in both Android and iPhone formats through Google Play and the Apple App Store.

 
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The app replaces Baptist Press’ mobile site by which smartphone users accessed the news service prior to the redesign of its website last September.
 
Art Toalston, now in his 24th year as editor of Baptist Press, said the app broadens BP’s media spectrum, including its BaptistPress.com website and the news service’s ongoing presence on Twitter and Facebook.
 
“The app also will offer a versatile connection to all of Southern Baptist life, connecting to entity websites that are at the forefront of missions, evangelism, service, discipleship, stewardship and biblical theology,” Toalston said. “We are not through yet,” he added, noting that the app will remain under ongoing development.
 
Key features of the app include:

  • A “News” tab connecting to both BaptistPress.com and to BP en Español, the news service’s Spanish-language weekly edition. The SBC Annual Meeting site also will be displayed from May through July in conjunction with this year’s June 16-17 meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

  • A “Media” tab connecting to BP featured videos, photos and comics and to SBC.net, the convention’s website; SBCLIFE, the journal of the SBC Executive Committee; the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board’s news and feature sites; LifeWay Christian Resources’ Facts & Trends magazine; the online newsrooms of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and GuideStone Financial Resources; the six SBC seminary websites; and WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union).

  • An “Info” tab that connects to Baptist Press on Twitter and Facebook and to information about faith in Christ for salvation. Departing from to the typical “Give” button on many apps, the BP app advises individuals to give through their local churches and to support Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program channel of support for SBC causes in their states and nationally and internationally.

  • An “HCSB Bible” tab that offers full audio content of the Bible. The HCSB – Holman Christian Standard Bible – is the translation utilized in resources published by LifeWay.

The app also will link to the news service’s main website, which includes multifaceted user-friendly search capability for archived material and story collections.
 
Providing news with a Christian perspective since 1946, Baptist Press circulates stories through the Internet to 40 state Baptist publications across the country and to a worldwide audience of Southern Baptists, like-minded evangelicals and readers seeking faith-based content. The news service, based at the SBC Executive Committee’s offices in Nashville, reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

4/13/2015 3:20:55 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



‘Radical righteousness’ needed for S.C. shooting

April 13 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christians should respond with godly grace and wisdom to the shooting death of unarmed black citizen Walter Scott at the hands of white police officer Michael Slager, an urban ministry leader and a criminal justice professor said in the days after the officer was charged with murder.
 
D.A. Horton, a pastor, hip-hop artist and North American Mission Board national coordinator for urban student missions, addressed the incident during the April 8 chapel service at Charleston Southern University, just miles from where the incident occurred in North Charleston, S.C.
 
Radical righteousness as opposed to retaliation should prevail when such tragedies occur, Horton said.
 
“Radical righteousness is lived out when we work to see a criminal receive proper punishment, instead of private revenge; public order instead of personal retaliation; and respond with practical righteousness in place of our personal rights,” Horton said at the Baptist-affiliated university. “So whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever cause you’re going to champion, do so advocating the justice of God.”
 
Slager, 33, was arrested April 7 and charged with murder after video from an observer’s cellphone surfaced showing the officer fatally shooting 50-year-old Scott in the back as he fled the scene of a traffic stop. Slager said he had stopped Scott for having a tail light that wasn’t working.
 

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Screen capture from CBS News

Christians can neither pretend law enforcers will always uphold the law, Horton said, nor rush to a judgment based on personal emotions and individual experiences. But the church must seek the radical righteousness God prescribes in Matthew 5:38-42.
 
“So when I see situations like this go down, how dark and depraved things look, all I know is I don’t have all the answers; I don’t have all the insight,” Horton said. “I was not present for Mike Brown [in Ferguson, Mo.], for Tamir Rice [in Cleveland, Ohio], for Eric Garner [in New York City], for Ezell Ford [in Los Angeles] and for the multitude of names that have been going down. I wasn’t there when the officers got gunned down in Brooklyn.
 
“... But what I do know as a believer, there was a real world with real hurt. There [are] real issues going on out there. And if believers cannot look to the words of Christ, and be words of comfort and clarity to our culture, then we don’t need to be claiming to be the church.”
 
Joshua Styles, who teaches criminal justice and Christian studies at North Greenville University, another Baptist-affiliated university in South Carolina, said the incident reflects a fallen world.
 
“This is where the gospel and the Christian message really speaks to this. We would hope that in a just world ... even if we know there’s going to be wrongdoers, we would hope that the state and that those who represent the state would be perfectly just in their execution of justice,” Styles said. “But frankly speaking ... because of sin, even those in authority are going to abuse their power.”
 
Styles, who holds a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and attended police academy in Raleigh, N.C., said police officers are taught to employ deadly force based on a “use of force continuum” of circumstances.
 
“The reason we call it a continuum is depending on the circumstances second by second, whether or not you have the right to use deadly force, it kind of ebbs and flows, based on the situation. So once that threat has stopped ... it really doesn’t matter what happened up to that point ... the officer is no longer justified in using deadly force,” Styles said. “The only time that deadly force is justified is when there is an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to you or to people surrounding you, a third party.
 
“In that video there is no imminent threat because the guy is running away,” Styles said, referencing the cell phone video taken by a bystander who witnessed Slager shooting Scott in the back.
 
While the officer and victim are of two different ethnicities, the public should not assume race was the motive, Styles said.
 
“We do not know that’s why he shot him. Correlation does not equal causation, necessarily, it doesn’t,” Styles said. Even given the diligence that police academies might employ, some candidates are promoted who do not have the proper character to hold the power of the law. Other officers might react inappropriately because of adrenaline or their mental state at the time of an incident, he said.
 
“I’m a white American so I have not experienced what [African Americans] have in the past, and what they actually still do experience to this day. African Americans perceive law enforcement differently,” Styles said. “We do, I think as believers, need to be very empathetic in caring toward a minority community who would struggle with an issue like this. We need to respond with grace ... but we don’t want to overblow things like the media would just for the sake of sensationalizing.”
 
Horton, in his chapel message, said God’s law embraces the rights of the criminal as well as the victim, and seeks a punishment appropriate to the crime. If people filter the world through their sinful nature, he said, justice becomes subjective and is no longer objective.
 
“When we allow our opinion to be the gospel in our life, that’s when we know we’re wrong in the eyes of God,” Horton said. “We have to allow the gospel to be the gospel truth in our eyes, so that we can in humility subject our opinion to it, and say, ‘Lord help me navigate through the tension that I’m in as a representative of Christ Jesus.’”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

4/13/2015 11:50:13 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ohio’s rich Southern Baptist history

April 13 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

“The ripest field for Southern Baptist work in the U.S.A.”
 
That’s how Ray Roberts, who would become the first executive secretary of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO), described the Buckeye state in 1952. Over the next six decades, Roberts and other Ohio Southern Baptists proved the ripeness of their field by planting hundreds of churches, establishing three other Baptist state conventions in pioneer areas, building a network of Baptist ministries and leading untold thousands to faith in Christ.
 
As Southern Baptists converge on Ohio June 16-17 for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Columbus, current SCBO executive director Jack Kwok said they will find a mission field that’s riper than ever.
 
“We’re not the only people here preaching the gospel, but Southern Baptists take the Great Commission seriously, that we’re to go to every people group,” Kwok told Baptist Press, noting that “well over 50 percent” of Ohio’s 11.5 million residents do not regard themselves as affiliated with any faith group.

 
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Image from iStock

“People are lost here, and Southern Baptists are taking the gospel to everybody,” Kwok said.
 
The history of Southern Baptists in Ohio dates to the 1930s, when Baptists from the South began to migrate north across the Ohio River. Many felt “ill at ease in the Ohio churches they attended” because “worship was not as ‘warm,’ the invitations as frequent and fervent, the sermons as simple in the presentation of the gospel as they were accustomed to back home,” historian L.H. Moore wrote in “The History of Southern Baptists in Ohio.”
 
So transplanted Southern Baptists began to establish churches.
 
In many cases, those churches cooperated with Baptist associations in Kentucky. Then in 1940, churches in Indiana and Ohio founded the White Water Baptist Association. The association engaged in aggressive church planting in Ohio, erecting buildings in towns where no Baptist church existed and then finding workers to establish missions. The association urged congregations to give 25 percent of their undesignated receipts to the Kentucky Baptist Convention for investment through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.
 
The number of Southern Baptists in Ohio increased through the early 1950s, but some worried that ministries funded by the SBC would violate so-called comity agreements of the late 1800s stipulating that only Northern Baptists could sponsor home missions in the Buckeye state.
 
In 1951, however, the SBC adopted a recommendation from its Committee on Relations with Other Religious Bodies that “the Home Mission Board and all other Southern Baptist boards and agencies be free to serve as a source of blessing to any community or any people anywhere in the United States.” Northern Baptists likewise had expanded their ministries nationwide and changed their name to the American Baptist Convention.
 
The SBC’s shift in home missions strategy set the stage for 39 churches to establish the SCBO in 1954 with financial support from the Home Mission Board, a precursor organization to the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and the Baptist Sunday School Board, which later changed its name to LifeWay Christian Resources. The Ohio convention’s first president, John Kurtz, said Ohio Southern Baptists committed to “stand on the gospel and preach the Word.”
 
Early Ohio Southern Baptists “just wanted to preach the gospel as it is and preach Christ as the Savior to all who would trust Him,” Kurtz, 94, said from a retirement home in Nashville.
 
The SCBO’s emphasis on church planting yielded 100 cooperating churches by 1957, 200 by 1960, 300 by 1964 and 400 by 1968. Some of those churches were in other states, and the SCBO helped found three sister state conventions – the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey and the Baptist Convention of New York.
 
When Kwok began his tenure as the convention’s fourth executive director in 1996, the SCBO had approximately 500 churches, a number that has swelled to more than 700 today. The convention’s “Mission Ohio” strategy calls for 2,020 congregations by 2020. NAMB has named Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati “Send Cities” as part of its Send North America church planting emphasis.
 
Ohio’s increasingly diverse population has affected both the SCBO’s evangelistic strategy and the ethnic composition of its leadership. In the mid-1990s, 85 percent of the state’s population was Anglo, 11 percent black and 4 percent other races, Kwok said. But demographics have shifted – particularly in urban areas. For example, Columbus residents were only 62 percent Anglo in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
 
“Our outreach has been to all people,” Kwok said. “Our logo reflects that. We have the SBC logo and red, brown, yellow, black and white figures around that to communicate that we’re here to reach all people.”
 
Two African Americans have served as SCBO president while Hispanics and Asians have also made significant contributions to the convention, Kwok said.
 
David Gray, an African American who served as SCBO president from 2006-08, called the state’s diverse population a “microcosm of at least the Midwest if not the nation.”
 
“The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio has a wide range of ethnicities that have done really wonderful things for God,” said Gray, pastor of First Baptist Church in Garrettsville. “They have been a part of the process of the state convention growing and have worked together with a broad spectrum of Southern Baptists to truly see growth in the Kingdom.”
 
Ohio Southern Baptists have been pioneers in planting churches on college and university campuses and have a rich history of community ministries, Kwok said. The convention’s support of SBC missions and ministries has increased from 20 percent of CP receipts in 1954 to 40.25 percent in 2014-15.
 
“Reaching the lost people of Ohio is a tremendous opportunity, and we’re just thrilled to be a part of it,” Kwok said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/13/2015 11:37:06 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gospel, politics to draw focus of ERLC conf.

April 13 2015 by Baptist Press

Engaging politics from a gospel perspective will be the focus of the second national conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity.
 
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) will present “The Gospel and Politics” as a one-day event Aug. 5 in Nashville. The conference, scheduled for the downtown Music City Center, is designed to equip pastors, other church leaders and church members in preparation for the 2016 presidential election.

 
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Addressing politics from a scriptural basis is needed, said ERLC President Russell Moore.
 
“Many churches and church leaders are tired of the screaming and warring that too often characterizes conversations about politics,” Moore said in an April 2 news release from the ERLC. “Some are asking if we cannot just bow out of contentious political debates and focus on teaching the Romans Road of Salvation. But Christian engagement of politics is about much more than winning arguments: it’s also about loving our neighbors and winning them to the kingdom of Christ.”
 
Moore added, “Christians often instinctively know that politics matter but don’t know how to respond in a way that is faithful to the gospel. What we want to talk about is how Christians can understand the way the truths of the Bible intersect with social and political needs. We want to empower pastors and church members to lead out in their communities with a Jesus-centered and neighbor-loving vision of public policy.”
 
The announced conference speakers so far are Moore and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
 
The ERLC conference will be held the day after the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) SEND North America Conference, which is set for Aug. 3-4 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The International Mission Board is partnering with NAMB this year on the SEND Conference.
 
The ERLC is continuing its pattern since Moore became president in 2013 of hosting both a leadership summit and a national conference each year. The entity sponsored a leadership summit on racial reconciliation March 26-27. While the spring summit targets church leaders, the national conference held later in the year addresses a wider Christian audience.
 
Last year, the ERLC sponsored a leadership summit on human sexuality in April and a national conference titled “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage” in October.
 
Next January, the ERLC will join Focus on the Family as primary sponsors of Evangelicals for Life, a major evangelical, pro-life conference in conjunction with the annual March for Life. The event – which will be co-sponsored by other organizations – will be held Jan. 21-22 in Washington, D.C.
 
The main sessions of the ERLC conference in August will be live-streamed at erlc.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/13/2015 11:30:22 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



They became Cooperative Program advocates

April 13 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Ohio native Lenard Tavernelli didn’t know a thing about Southern Baptists.
 
He was reared in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, part of a conservative split in 1932 from the former Northern Baptist Convention (now the American Baptist Churches USA).
 
But Tavernelli’s awareness of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) began to change on his first day at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he enrolled in 2004 because friends from college were studying at the Louisville, Ky., campus.
 
On his first day of orientation, Tavernelli and the entire incoming class received several hours of information about the Cooperative Program (CP), its history, purpose and effectiveness.
 
“I started being a Southern Baptist that day,” Tavernelli said.
 
Shortly thereafter, he found a Southern Baptist church home, and ever since he’s been an advocate of the way Southern Baptists cooperate together for the sake of the gospel. Today he’s pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Kenosha, Wis., which gives 11 percent of undesignated offerings for missions and ministry through CP.

 
4-13-15CP.jpg

“Jesus calls us in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and make disciples,” Tavernelli said. “We as the church … can’t do that alone. We can’t even disciple all of America, let alone the entire world. We’re called to fulfill the Great Commission, in the spirit of the Great Commandment. The Cooperative Program helps us do that.”
 
The Cooperative Program is the way Southern Baptists work together for the expansion of God’s Kingdom. Churches decide how much they will contribute, either a dollar amount or a percentage of undesignated offerings. Part of CP stays in the state convention for its missions and ministries, in a percentage voted on at each state convention’s annual meeting. The rest goes through the SBC Executive Committee, which distributes CP according to a formula voted on at the SBC’s annual meeting.
 

A teen’s recollection

For Adam Blosser, the words “Cooperative Program” didn’t resonate until years after he began hearing them.
 
“I suppose I heard about the Cooperative Program all my life, but the first I remember hearing about it, I was a teenager,” said Blosser, pastor of Drakes Branch (Va.) Baptist Church. “The first time I understood it was when I went to seminary, and CP paid half my tuition.”
 
“We believe the Cooperative Program is the best way for us to fund missions and theological education,” Blosser said. “We believe in the work that the [International and North American mission boards] are doing for the sake of the Gospel, and our church has benefitted greatly from the work of the Southern Baptist seminaries in training pastors.
 
“We want to give generously that the Kingdom of God may advance,” the pastor continued. “Christ will build His church. We want to be part of that. We want to be counted faithful with the little.”

 

Pastor to pastor

Relationships with other pastors taught Paul Kim, pastor of Good Community Church in Torrance, Calif., about the Cooperative Program.
 
Good Community Church, which began in 1991, focused most of its missions efforts on helping other Korean churches and missionaries. They responded to the needs of their countrymen who didn’t have the undergirding support of a major denomination, while giving a small amount to missions through the Cooperative Program.
 
But as Kim’s relationships grew with other pastors and leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, he became aware that Good Community Church didn’t have a good accountability system for all its missions support.
 
Kim came to realize the SBC provided the accountability, financial integrity, missions zeal and doctrinal purity the church wanted to be part of, and he directed the church to work primarily through the Cooperative Program and the SBC’s IMB and NAMB.
 
Once Kim refocused the church on missions, both through the Cooperative Program and missions opportunities locally, statewide and globally, the Good Community congregation began to grow. It doubled in size, from 500 to 1,000, in Sunday morning worship, and increased its CP support of missions from an annual $1,200 to $33,000.
 
“As we learn more, we give more,” said David Yoon, the church’s English language pastor. “As we do more, we give more. The Cooperative Program is the way we all work together in obedience to Jesus’ last command, the Great Commission: ‘As you go, make disciples of all nations.’“
 
For the 2015 church year in the Southern Baptist Convention, 50.41 percent of what is sent to the Executive Committee is forwarded on to the International Mission Board (IMB); 22.79 percent to the SBC’s North American Mission Board (NAMB); 22.16 percent to the SBC’s six theological seminaries and the Historical Library and Archives; 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); and 2.99 percent for the SBC operating budget.
 
In the 2014 SBC Books of Reports, the IMB reported supporting more than 4,800 missionaries, who were involved in starting 6,200 churches and more than 114,000 baptisms; NAMB was involved in starting 936 congregations across North America; the SBC’s six seminaries had 15,993 Southern Baptist students, with total enrollment at 18,259; and the ERLC, in numerous ways, promoted Southern Baptist views on ethics and morals 1,200 times.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a writer based in Mapleton, Utah.)

4/13/2015 11:14:34 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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