April 2016

Betty West leaves 60-year legacy as pastor’s wife

April 18 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Paul West sat with folded hands resting on a hardwood table as afternoon sunlight poured through nearby windows. The 87-year-old minister was overwhelmed by grief, but took great delight in sharing a story precious to him. With sincere emotion, he recalled memories of his late wife, Betty West.
“She was a godly woman,” he said, “the total package, in my mind.”


Contributed photo
Paul and Betty West

Betty died Oct. 29, 2015 at the age of 82, leaving behind her husband, three daughters, quite a few grandchildren and a 60-year legacy of faithful service as the wife of a North Carolina Baptist minister.
West was accompanied by one of his daughters, Anita Wilson, to the upstairs room of a brownstone building in historic Chapel Hill. They agreed to an interview to provide a glimpse into the life of a God-fearing lady that walked alongside her husband in ministry for decades on end.
Their hope was that many young pastors’ wives might be inspired to follow her example.
She embodied grace and strength, West said, epitomizing the Christ-like balance of sweet-spirited hospitality with rugged faithfulness.
He attributed much of Betty’s character to her upbringing.
She was born in 1933 and raised near Bryson City, N.C. Her family lived without motorized transportation, as did many rural highlanders in the early 20th century. Betty’s parents were churchgoing people, so the family walked four miles to and from corporate worship each week.
“Growing up in the mountains must have toughened Betty,” said West. “She had a strong faith … from the time she was baptized as a girl in the Little Tennessee River until her last breath.”
Her mother died when Betty was only nine years old, and she lost her father at 16. West said it was the lasting effect of their absence that impressed upon Betty the great need for showing love in a timely way.
Her elder siblings took care of Betty as best they could, but the relational void left by her parents was noticeable.
“She seemed to have a hunger for fellowship with anyone she could engage in conversation,” he said. One of her favorite activities as a minister’s wife was visiting church members.
“Her spirit, her sweet attitude, her warm heart and her winsome ways stood out head and shoulders,” he added. “She had character.”
At various points in their six decades of ministry together, Betty served as a Sunday School teacher, member of the Woman’s Missionary Union and church secretary. She even typed her husband’s sermon notes regularly.
Betty’s practice of typewriting his documents stretched back into the early days of their relationship, when West was still enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas.
“She was ready to do anything that would enhance my ministry,” he said. “She was so supportive and as smart as a whip.”
Betty showed endless loyalty to her pastor-husband, and exuded meekness.
“Anything but a holier-than-thou type of person,” West remembered, “she was humble.”
His tenure as a minister spanned eight churches, and most of them were relatively small. As a result, they lived with a reasonable income that was far from lavish.
“She denied herself of so much,” he said, “knowing that we just didn’t have the means.”
She knew God would provide, added Wilson.
West shared an instance of particular humility that occurred while he and Betty were living in a church parsonage, which they did nearly all their marriage.
They returned home from an outing to find an unannounced deacons’ meeting in their living room. The parsonage was, after all, the church’s property.
“This pastor’s wife, like many others,” he said, “was not able to choose the home in which she lived. “But she was content, and very grateful for the home the church provided … never did I hear her complain.
“I loved that spirit, the unselfishness about her,” he said.
Her sensitivity toward others was only overshadowed by her affection for God, he added. “She knew how to talk to the Lord.”
When asked what Betty would say to a young pastor’s wife looking ahead to a life of ministry, Paul answered, “She would say first of all that you really need to look at this as your calling as well.
“And that you will be a major part of his ministry, so be prepared for that.
“There will be hard times. It will require patience, fortitude, courage, strength, reliance upon our Heavenly Father and a lot of prayers. But the joys and the rewards and the [spiritual] compensation will far outweigh the struggles.” 

4/18/2016 3:59:31 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Louisiana College, former president part ways

April 15 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Louisiana College’s (LC) strained relationship with former President Joe Aguillard has returned to the news.
The college has released a statement that Aguillard no longer has the title of “president emeritus” according to trustee action on April 12. Aguillard was LC’s president from 2005 to 2014.


Joe Aguillard

The LC statement also reported that the trustee executive committee approved a recommendation from the college’s Faculty Affairs Advisory Committee that Aguillard be removed from his tenured faculty position stemming from what it called “violations of the LC Faculty Handbook.”
Aguillard, in an April 13 statement to Baptist Press, said he had not been informed by the college of any actions about his status. Aguillard is now pastor of Kelly Baptist Church in Kelly, La.
Aguillard said “three of my closest mentors ... called me and told me that there were media reports; but, I haven’t read them in order to avoid triggers that would cause medical problems due to my fragile health.... It appears now that the College chose to give statements to the media before contacting me.”
The three Louisiana Baptist leaders, Aguillard said, are among those who “have always been and continue to be phenomenal pillars of strength to me” particularly during “these last two decades in our spiritual warfare for Biblical inerrancy and against Liberalism and Calvinism.”
The college, in a four-paragraph, 184-word statement, said the “violations of the LC Faculty Handbook” were considered in a hearing by the Faculty Affairs Advisory Committee but the college did not specify the date, the allegations or the committee’s specific recommendation.
The recommendation, according to its news release, was “upheld by the Executive Committee of the college’s Board of Trustees following a lengthy appeal hearing.”
The college news release concluded, “Dr. Randy Harper, Chairman of the Louisiana College Board of Trustees, speaking for the Board and the current administration, said that all LC stakeholders should be assured that school policy and procedures were meticulously followed throughout the dismissal and appeal proceedings. Louisiana College officials are not expected to have further comment on the matter.”
Aguillard, in his statement to Baptist Press, said, “I trust in my Lord totally and fully. I have forgiven each of those who have continued these attacks against me for these many years, and I remind all to remember: ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
“James 4:17 says, ‘Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.’ I would rather stand in the storms of the consequences of standing for Truth with Jesus than in the peace of hiding Truth in the tent of my heart and living with it forever in sin. For, when public opinion becomes the measure of our actions, we are wrong every time.”
Aguillard joined LC’s faculty in 2000 as professor of education and chair of the division of education. He and his wife are 1977 graduates as are their daughters and, during the 1930s, his parents, with his father having served as a trustee chairman.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/15/2016 12:26:27 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Payday loan limits urged by religious coalition

April 15 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

American Christians overwhelmingly support government regulation of the predatory lending industry, Southern Baptists and other religious leaders in a Faith for Just Lending Coalition said April 13.
Coalition members, in a telephone news conference, pointed to online survey results by LifeWay Research that 86 percent of self-identified Christians in 30 states believe laws and regulations should bar loans at “excessive interest rates.”
Payday lending, as it is commonly known, often draws poor people into a debt trap by charging exorbitant, and often misleading, interest rates. Though an interest rate may be portrayed by a lender as 15 percent, for instance, it actually is only for a two-week period until a person’s next payday. The annual interest rate typically is about 400 percent, making it extremely difficult for a borrower to repay the loan.
“[W]e need measures that rein in exorbitant interest rates” and “not half-measures” that are sometimes passed, Southern Baptist public policy specialist Barrett Duke said during the teleconference call. “The biggest challenge ... is getting public decision-makers to enact these particular regulations.”
Americans would benefit from the federal government’s annual percentage rate (APR) cap of 36 percent for military members, Duke told reporters.
“If it’s good enough for the military, that interest rate cap should be good enough for everyone,” said Duke, vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The states that have caps demonstrate that lenders can still make “reasonable profits” without taking advantage of borrowers, he said.
The coalition-sponsored survey of 1,000 self-identified Christians by LifeWay Research of the Southern Baptist Convention included these results in its April 13 release:

  • 77 percent said it is a sin to extend a loan that does financial harm to the borrower.

  • 55 percent said the “maximum reasonable” APR for loans should be 18 percent or less.

  • 56 percent said their church should offer advice to the financially needy, and 27 percent would like their church to provide loans or gifts to individuals in financial trouble.

The Faith for Just Lending Coalition also released April 13 its findings in a survey of clergy and religious service providers who know people who have borrowed payday or car title loans. The study showed:

  • 86 percent pointed to a negative effect on payday loan borrowers.

  • 35 percent had helped a borrower pay off or refinance a payday or car title loan.

Predatory lending is a pastoral and public issue, said Stephen Reeves, associate coordinator for partnerships and advocacy of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).
“Churches are, and need to continue, teaching stewardship as well as generosity ...,” Reeves said. “To the public decision-makers, we want to show you that Christians widely agree that the laws and regulations should protect against expensive interest and loans that cannot be repaid.”
Efforts to convince the Texas legislature to regulate predatory lending have failed, resulting in a different strategy in that state, said Michael Mulvey, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi. The Catholic bishops switched their appeals to local governments, and 35 cities have passed ordinances regulating predatory lending, he told reporters.
Mulvey demonstrated the magnitude of the problem in Corpus Christi by citing the $29 million in fees payday lenders in the area garnered in 2014.
Coalition members told reporters they are not opposed to lending but to predatory lending.
“What we object to is predatory lending that takes advantage of vulnerable people, traps them in debts that they can’t afford and can’t escape, and drains their already limited resources with usurious interest rates and fees,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
“Predatory lending violates basic biblical and moral principles,” he said, “and it hurts people in our churches and communities.”
The LifeWay survey found a disproportionate number of African Americans – 49 percent – say they have taken out a payday loan.
“[P]redatory lenders really target communities of color,” said Cassandra Gould, pastor of an African American church in Jefferson City, Mo., and executive director of Missouri Faith Voices. Payday lending is a “scourge on our communities,” she said.
About 20,000 payday and car-title loan stores exist in the United States, according to the coalition. Payday lenders also operate online.
The ERLC helped launch the Faith for Just Lending Coalition in May 2015 as a concerted effort by diverse religious organizations to increase awareness of predatory lending and to motivate individuals, lenders, churches and the government to help bring an end to the practice.
Southern Baptists addressed the predatory loan industry in a resolution adopted by messengers during their 2014 annual meeting. The resolution denounced predatory payday lending, called for the adoption of just government policies to end the practice and urged churches to provide training in financial stewardship.
In addition to the ERLC, NAE and CBF, members of the coalition’s steering committee are the Center for Public Justice; Ecumenical Poverty Initiative; National Baptist Convention, USA; National Latino Evangelical Coalition; the PICO National Network; and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

Related Story:

Survey: Christians call ‘payday loans’ sinful

4/15/2016 12:21:08 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New York Yankees call Ken Whitten ‘mentor’

April 15 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Ken Whitten used to dream of playing professional baseball.
But even though God closed that door following Whitten’s college pitching career nearly 40 years ago at Eastern Illinois University, He reopens another door into baseball for Whitten each spring as Major League players and coaches – especially New York Yankees – descend on the Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz where he has served as pastor for 26 years.


Photo courtesy of Ken Whitten
Derek Jeter (right) is among the New York Yankees Ken Whitten has met through ministry to the team.

With the Yankees’ spring training facility less than half an hour away, some 8-12 players and coaches worship at the church each year. That has afforded Whitten the opportunity to forge relationships with legendary Yankees like Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Joe Girardi and Reggie Jackson. Former MLB player and manager Lou Piniella is an Idlewild member, and Angels slugger Albert Pujols is among other baseball personalities to whom Whitten has ministered.
In 2014 when Whitten celebrated 25 years at Idlewild in Lutz, Fla., the church honored him with bobble head dolls featuring their pastor dressed in a Yankees uniform with a Bible under his arm.
“God’s calling on my life into ministry was not really saying no to baseball,” Whitten said. “It was saying yes in a more eternal way, and that was that I get to minister to these guys in a spiritual way.”
Two pastors on the Idlewild staff are official chaplains for the Tampa Yankees, one of the team’s minor league affiliates, and Whitten has led Bible studies with Major League Yankee players.
“Seeing some of them come to Christ is always a special treat,” he said.
On a lighter note, Whitten added that Reggie Jackson, a Hall of Fame outfielder, “can hijack a Bible study quicker than anyone. He’s always got a baseball story. And of course, we egg him on a little bit.”


Photo courtesy of Ken Whitten
Andy Pettitte (left) called Pastor Ken Whitten “a second father to me.”

Piniella, manager of the year twice in the American League and once in the National League, credits Whitten as one of the people who helped lead him to Jesus. Reared as a Roman Catholic, Piniella began attending Idlewild more than 20 years ago when he moved back to his home city of Tampa, Fla., and quickly learned about knowing Christ personally as Lord and Savior.
“I had numerous talks with” Whitten about salvation, Piniella said. “He helped me immensely growing spiritually and going through the process of being born again and baptized.”
Piniella added, “It’s been a wonderful transformation in my life. The amazing thing is that I managed in the big leagues for about 23 years, and the best years I had were when I was immersed in the Word, reading the Bible on an everyday basis.”
One of Whitten’s favorite memories related to Piniella is attending spring training in Arizona with the Seattle Mariners, whom Piniella managed from 1993-2002.
“They put a uniform on me,” Whitten said. “I was around Ken Griffey and Randy Johnson. I was in the locker room with them, and I was going out there shagging balls.”
Pettitte, a retired pitcher who leads the Yankees all-time in strikeouts, said that Whitten “played a huge role in my life spiritually” and “has been a great mentor.”
Drafted by the Yankees at age 19, Pettitte sought a Bible-preaching church to attend while at the Yankees’ training facility. A pitching coach in the organization, Nardi Contreras, recommended Idlewild, and Pettitte became “fast friends” with Whitten upon attending. The pastor stayed in touch with Pettitte throughout his minor league and Major League careers, offering spiritual and practical advice.


Photo courtesy of Ken Whitten
Idlewild Baptist Church celebrated Ken Whitten’s 25th anniversary with bobble head dolls of their pastor.

“He’s like a second father to me,” Pettitte said, “just a great mentor for me, a great guy for me to go to for wisdom and counsel.” Whitten’s counsel has included “how to be a husband” as well as “how to be a father.”
Whitten remembers his own children babysitting Pettitte’s children during spring training, including Pettitte’s son Josh, who was drafted by the Yankees in 2013 but opted to play college baseball instead. When the Yankees retired Pettitte’s jersey number and inducted him into their Monument Park museum, he invited Whitten to attend.
If Pettitte is ever inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he says Whitten will be invited to that induction ceremony too.
More recently, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has worshipped at Idlewild, and some of the younger players attended the congregation’s Tuesday night service for college students.
As Piniella put it, Whitten “basically has served as a pastor and a mentor to a lot of the Yankees.”
Baseball personalities attend Idlewild for a variety of reasons, Whitten said, but one key is that the focus is placed on Jesus, not them.
“I think they always saw Idlewild as a pretty safe place,” Whitten said. “We don’t make [their attendance] a big deal. We don’t recognize them. We let them come, be with their family and worship – because that’s what they want to do and that’s what they need to do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/15/2016 12:14:56 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Frisbee toss begins witness on remote Asian island

April 15 2016 by Brent Mitchell*, Baptist Courier

My two companions and I were on a ferry heading for an isolated island off the coast of Indonesia when a suspicious dark-skinned man approached us. Surprisingly, he asked in English, “Why are you going to my island?”
Taken aback, I looked at the 240 other dark-skinned Indonesians who had been staring at us, obviously discussing the three fair-skinned foreigners, and replied to my interrogator, “We are tourists.”
He threw back his head and laughed out loud. “No tourists come to my island!” he exclaimed. “Where will you stay? There is no hotel.”
“Yes, we are tourists, but we don’t know where we will stay.” He pondered that for a moment, then announced emphatically, “Then you will stay with me.”


Submitted photo
The chief elder was among the island people pastor Brent Mitchell (name changed) and two fellow pastors befriended during an initial visit in Indonesia to the unreached region.

I turned to my friends and said, “See there? The Lord doth provide. We have lodging for the night. We won’t have to sleep outside on the ground.” Then I turned back to see those stoic Muslim faces for the rest of our two-hour ferry ride.
The woman beside me with two dead chickens in her bag kept trying to edge away from me. My companions, two fellow pastors in North Carolina, and I had traveled to Jakarta. We took a commuter flight to one island and then to a second island. Now we were on a ferry ride to our final destination, the home of 100,000-plus Indonesian Muslims called the Solor people, an unreached, unengaged people group with no evangelical witness. They have lived and died without the gospel for generations.
Our intention was to travel there, explore the island, meet the people, share the gospel if possible, and initiate contacts that would allow the pastors with me to return at a later date with church-planting mission teams from their respective churches.
Our new friend, Mahmoud Ibrahim, took us to his home immediately – a two-room house with a tin roof. His wife served us fruit juice. Then we had to register with the chief of police, who celebrated our arrival with great pomp. Although few tourists – none – came to their island, they suggested we visit the ruins of the fort, as good tourists would.
En route to the fort, we stopped to buy drinks at a roadside stand because of the 100-plus-degree temperature and extremely high humidity, as this island is situated right on the equator. After drinks, a crowd gathered to see three fair-skinned people on their island.
We popped out and threw collapsible Frisbees, which initially frightened the crowd because they had never seen anything like them. After a few throws, everyone was smiling and laughing. I then took a Sharpie and began to explain the gospel in six pictures, drawing it on the inside of one of the Frisbees and using my host as an interpreter. The crowd was enthralled and listened intently. When finished, I threw that Frisbee with the gospel message on it to one of the men in the crowd. He became an instant celebrity.
We then marched down the road to the fort. We passed several more drink stands. At each one we stopped and repeated the process. My pastor friends and I took turns sharing the gospel using the Frisbees. The crowds got bigger each time, and our interpreter got better and more authoritative each time, as if he was the Indonesian translator for Billy Graham!
On the final day I asked Ibrahim if there were any believers like us on the island. He responded, “Why, yes, of course – the port master, my cousin!”
“Why didn’t you tell me this already?”
“You never asked me.”
“Can we meet him?”
“Of course, he is in the harbor this week.”
So we all trooped down to the harbor to meet and interview the harbormaster. It turns out he had traveled to another island the previous year, at which time he had been invited to a Protestant church by some friends. The church was a two-and-a-half-hour hike to the top of a mountain. That day he heard singing and a gospel presentation and became a believer. Incredulous, I asked him via my interpreter, “You became a believer after hearing about Christ only one time?”
“Yes, of course, and I took my wife back there a month later, and she became a believer as well.”
“How often do you go there?”
“I return to that island on business about every three months. We attend church when we return.”
“Are there any other believers like you on this island?”
“Only one other, but he is not a very good believer.”
“Why do you say that?”
“He doesn’t go to church very often.”
The three of us Americans burst into laughter. He was quite perplexed.
After meeting with him, my pastor friends promised him they would come back two or three times per year, God willing, with the support of International Mission Board personnel in Jakarta to help him and his wife start a church on their island. He was quite delighted we would take such an interest in him and the people on his island.
Later that day we began our three-day journey back to the United States, with the ferry ride and the two flights back to Jakarta. We were full of praise to our Lord that He had prospered our visit to the Solor people, occupants of an island with no gospel witness for generations, but which, with God’s blessing, will soon have a New Testament church planted by Southern Baptists from rural North Carolina.
*Name changed.
A missions luncheon will be held at Boiling Springs First Baptist Church in South Carolina on May 2 at noon for pastors and lay leaders interested in reaching an unreached people group. If you and your church would like to attend or want to hear more about reaching an unreached people group, contact the church at (864) 578-2828.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This missions account by pastor Brent Mitchell* was told to Robert Jackson, a family practice physician in South Carolina who drafted this article for the Baptist Courier state newspaper in South Carolina. Robert Jackson is on the Web at thefamilydoctorspeaks.com.)

4/15/2016 12:09:27 PM by Brent Mitchell*, Baptist Courier | with 0 comments

Survey: Christians call ‘payday loans’ sinful

April 14 2016 by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research

Self-identified Christians in 30 states – from Alabama to Wyoming – say it’s a sin to lend money to someone who can’t afford to pay it back.
Most want the government to protect consumers from loans with excessive interest. Still, 1 in 6 Christians has taken out a high-interest payday loan, while few of their fellow believers know how such loans work or look to the Bible for guidance about fair lending.
Those are among the findings of a new online survey of Christians’ views of payday lending from LifeWay Research. The Nashville-based research firm surveyed 1,000 self-identified Christians in 30 states, all of which have little or no regulation of payday loans.


Most Christians find payday loans impractical and morally questionable, said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. Many seem unaware the Bible addresses lending practices.
“Ask people if charging high interest is wrong, and they’ll say yes,” McConnell said. “They forget the Bible calls it ‘usury’ and condemns it as sinful.”
The survey, conducted Feb. 5-17, was sponsored by Faith for Just Lending, a national coalition of diverse and nonpartisan faith leaders opposed to predatory loans.

Among the key findings:

  • Christians are no strangers to payday loans. Overall, 17 percent of Christians have taken payday loans – 20 percent of Protestants and 12 percent of Catholics. Half of African American Christians (49 percent) and a quarter of Hispanic Christians (24 percent) say they’ve taken out a payday loan.

  • Most believe taking advantage of borrowers is sinful. But few say payday loans are immoral. Three-quarters (77 percent) of Christians say it’s sinful to lend money in a way that harms the borrower financially. They also describe payday loans as “expensive” (62 percent), “harmful” (37 percent) and “predatory” (33 percent). Still, more Christians say such loans are “helpful” (16 percent) than “immoral” (11 percent).

  • About half (55 percent) say the “maximum reasonable” annual percentage rate (APR) for loans should be 18 percent or less. That includes 37 percent who say APR should be capped at 12 percent interest or less and another 18 percent who want to see a cap at 18 percent interest. Five percent say interest should be capped at 36 percent.

A typical two-week payday loan charges the equivalent of a 400 percent APR, according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal government agency tasked with consumer protection in the financial sector.

  • Few Christians see a connection between faith and fair lending. Nine percent say the Bible has the most influence on how they view lending practices. That’s less than the news media (14 percent) but more than their church (1 percent). Politicians (1 percent) and national Christian leaders (less than 1 percent) have little influence on the issue of fair lending.

Instead, Christians most likely rely on their personal experience with loans (28 percent) or haven’t given much thought to the fairness of lending practices (23 percent).

  • Most Christians believe the law should protect borrowers. Eighty-six percent agree when asked, “Do you believe laws or regulations should prohibit lending at excessive interest rates?” A similar number (94 percent) say lenders should only make loans with reasonable interest that can be repaid within the original loan period.

According to the CFPB, 4 out of 5 payday loans are rolled over for an extended time. In the LifeWay Research survey, 85 percent of Christians underestimate how often such loans are repeated.

  • Few Christians say their church has a plan to help those who turn to payday loans. Only 6 percent of Christians say their church offers “guidance or assistance related to payday loans.” A third (34 percent) say their church offers no help. Six in 10 (61 percent) don’t know. Protestants (7 percent) are more likely to say their church offers help than Catholics (2 percent). Those who have taken a payday loan are more likely to say their church offers help (10 percent) than those who haven’t (5 percent.)

  • Christians say churches should give counseling about payday loans. More than half (56 percent) want to see their church offer guidance to those with financial needs. And a quarter (27 percent) want churches to give gifts or loans to those in a financial crisis. But Christians are less interested in sermons about fair lending (17 percent) or advocacy (18 percent) for changes in laws or regulation.

Some Christians are interested in sermons about biblical principles for fair lending. They include those with evangelical beliefs (31 percent), African Americans (24 percent) and those who go to church once or more a week (24 percent).
Most Christians seem to want churches to offer a mixture of counseling and practical help. Eighty-three percent agree churches “should teach and model responsible stewardship, offering help to neighbors in times of crisis.” But 17 percent disagree.
The scriptures insist the poor be treated in a just manner, said Barrett Duke, vice president for policy of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. That includes fair lending practices.
“Payday loans with their exorbitant interest rates operate far outside of what is ethical or biblical,” Duke said.
Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, said payday loans offer short-term solutions but create longer-term problems. Such loans, he said, have a “devastating effect” on churches and communities.
“A payday loan may look like an answer to prayer – a way out of a financial crisis,” Carey said. “But too often, payday or title loans lead to long-term indebtedness, making a small problem into a large problem.”
McConnell suggests churches can play a key role in helping those who are caught in a cycle of payday loans. After all, he said, there’s likely someone in most churches who has taken out a payday loan in a time of crisis.
“Anyone can encounter financial hardships,” he said. “The question is whether the destitute are met with support or someone intent on profiting from their situation.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine at factsandtrends.net published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/14/2016 11:38:05 AM by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments

Archaeologists buttress early dating of OT books

April 14 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A study suggesting widespread literacy among ancient Hebrews before 600 B.C. has been dubbed “one more nail slammed in the coffin” of liberal theology’s argument that Old Testament books could not have been written during the lives of David, Moses and other scriptural authors.
The finding from a team of Israeli archaeologists and mathematicians counters notions that literacy was rare and isolated before the Jews’ exile to Babylon.
“There’s plenty of evidence to suggest the Hebrews were writing,” said Daniel Warner, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. “This solidifies it. It really puts a damper into the liberals who have hounded us that most of [the Old Testament] was developed during the intertestamental period or the Babylonian captivity. That’s just one more nail slammed in the coffin.”


A team of scholars from Tel Aviv University wrote in an April 11 article for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that inscriptions from a military outpost in Arad in southern Israel suggest “the proliferation of literacy among the Judahite army ranks ca. 600 BCE.” Based on mathematical algorithms and other analysis, the scholars determined at least six distinct writers from various ranks of Judah’s military contributed to a series of 16 ink inscriptions on ceramic sherds.
This finding – combined with previous archaeological discoveries – suggests a widespread “ability to communicate in writing” among all socioeconomic classes in ancient Israel, according to the article.
“Widespread literacy,” the article states, offers a “background for the composition of ambitious works such as the Book of Deuteronomy and the history of Ancient Israel in the Books of Joshua to Kings (known as the Deuteronomistic History), which formed the platform for Judahite ideology and theology.”
Stephen Andrews, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said “the issue is literacy.”
“Prior to the discovery of the writings of the ancient Near East, liberals denied the scriptures based on the lack of evidence of writing,” Andrews said. “Since that time, some biblical scholars have subtly returned to that argument by suggesting that only a select handful or elite of the biblical culture could read or write.
“The argument proposes that the theological writings of the Old Testament were too complex and sophisticated to be written by any other than the religious elite and only after the exile in Babylon. This article shows that writing was a common practice in Israel prior to the exile and refutes this argument. In fact, Judges 8:14 suggests that even a youth was able to write in the days of Gideon. Believers can believe the Bible when it says that ‘Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord’ (Exodus 24:4),” Andrews said.
Even apart from the most recent archaeological findings, Andrews said, there is ample evidence of writing dating back to 3200 B.C. Evidence of “a true writing system ... capable of expressing complex ideas” dates to 2600 B.C. – hundreds of years before the supposed time of Abraham.
“It is no surprise then, that the Bible also refers to writing over 270 times,” Andrews said, “because the ability to write was well-known and used throughout biblical times. The first case of writing is found in Exodus 17:14 when God commanded Moses to record on a scroll the Israelite defeat of the Amalekites. Archaeology clearly shows that writing was used before 600 B.C.”
Warner explained that evidence for “proto-Hebrew,” precursor to the Hebrew language most Old Testament scholars study today, has not been dated prior to the 10th century B.C., following the times of Moses and David. That means some Old Testament authors likely wrote their original manuscripts in a language other than Hebrew. The Israelites brought that text into Hebrew as the language developed, he said.
Gary Arbino, professor of archaeology and Old Testament interpretation at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, cautioned against making too much of the inscriptions from Arad.
“The writing of some portions of scripture – by internal evidence of the biblical text – is reasonably seen to have taken place prior to the exile,” Arbino said. “I am not sure what the Arad research adds to the discussion, except perhaps that more levels of bureaucrats could read and write, and now we have concrete evidence of that.”
Dating biblical books can be a complex matter, Arbino said, with the “final form” of some books compiled after the exile even though much of their content was written before. That issue “is not addressed by the research” of Arad inscriptions.
Still, Warner said, the study of Judahite inscriptions is part of the mounting evidence “that the Hebrews were capable of writing and, in fact, were probably pretty good at it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/14/2016 11:34:05 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Northwest Baptist Convention adds pastor search resource

April 14 2016 by Cameron Crabtree, Northwest Baptist Witness

The Northwest Baptist Convention (NWBC) has developed a new resource to help churches find a pastor when vacancies occur.
“The biggest difference we can make in helping a church is in working together to ensure it makes good decisions in selecting a new pastor,” said Randy Adams, executive director of the convention encompassing 480-plus churches in Oregon, Washington and northern Idaho.
Clint Ashley, a special consultant for church leadership with the convention, developed the resource with input from Adams and Joe Flegal, NWBC evangelism and church health director.
“There’s a lot of good material out there, but some of it is cumbersome and too lengthy to help many search teams. This is a shorter, streamlined version of some of the more helpful items,” Adams said of the new resource, titled Guidance in the Pastor Search Journey.
“When we learn of a pastoral vacancy, the church will receive a letter from me outlining ways we can help and suggest an initial contact person to learn about what the next steps might be,” Adams said.
In the past, the convention has assisted churches seeking resumes of potential candidates. That will continue, Adams said, but additional resources are often necessary. The steps range from developing a spiritual foundation for the process early on to ways for completing thorough background checks.
“Leadership transitions are not easy, but they present a fresh opportunity to revisit God’s mission for the church and rekindle a vision for impacting the community with the good news,” Adams said.
Contact information for the convention can be accessed at nwbaptist.org/contact-us.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cameron Crabtree is editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness at gonbw.org, newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention.)

4/14/2016 11:29:41 AM by Cameron Crabtree, Northwest Baptist Witness | with 0 comments

Climate change critics perceive threat from Attorney Generals

April 14 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

An effort by 17 state and territorial attorneys general and former vice president Al Gore to find “creative ways to enforce” laws related to climate change has been characterized as contrary to the spirit of a 2007 Southern Baptist Convention resolution “on global warming.”
Evangelical climate change experts have added that the coalition of attorneys general from 15 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands seems to have made assertions in conflict with constitutional principles and sound scientific procedure.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman announced at a March 29 press conference that the coalition is working to find “creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuel industry and their allies in their shortsighted efforts to put profits above the interests of the American people and the integrity of our financial markets,” according to a YouTube video of the event. He added according to The Daily Signal, “The bottom line is simple: Climate change is real.”
Schneiderman specifically mentioned a joint effort among some coalition members to investigate the Exxon Mobil oil company for possibly committing fraud. He said the company, among other actions, used “the best climate models” to prompt adjustment of their oil rigs in preparation for rising sea levels while simultaneously telling the public there were “no competent models to project climate patterns.”
The New York attorney general referenced a “relentless assault from well-funded, highly aggressive and morally vacant forces that are trying to block every step by the federal government to take meaningful action” to fight climate change.
The attorneys general – 16 of whom are Democrats and one of whom is an Independent according to The Daily Signal – also announced their support of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, The New York Times reported.
The announcements drew criticism from political and social conservatives.
Martha Lawley, a member of the 2007 SBC Resolutions Committee, said the potential persecution of those who question human-induced climate change runs contrary to the convention’s most recent statement on the matter.
“The resolution was based on the fact the science is not settled and left open for individual Southern Baptists to determine for themselves what they felt in terms of what the science established or didn’t establish,” said Lawley, a women’s ministry author and speaker and retired attorney. She stressed that she spoke only for herself and not the Resolutions Committee or the convention.
The resolution stated “many scientists reject the idea of catastrophic human-induced global warming” and “urge[d] Southern Baptists to proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research.”
Lawley said “the science remains unsettled” nine years later. “Declaring the science settled as a political matter seems to violate the very essence of scientific inquiry, as I understand it.” The potential prosecution of climate change critics “raises some serious concerns for me personally about constitutional protection of free speech and free thought.”
Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, said the idea oil companies can be found guilty of fraud related to climate change is “naive to ridiculous.”
To commit fraud, Beisner said, is to “knowingly [convey] a falsehood with the intent of enriching [oneself] or harming others financially.” In climate science, there are “literally thousands of different opinions” on the amount, causes and impact of global warming. That makes it virtually impossible for an objective court to declare any one of those opinions false, he said.
The freedoms of speech and inquiry are grounded in a Judeo-Christian worldview, Beisner said. “Christians, therefore, should line up firmly in favor of this freedom. But this effort by the Attorneys General United for Clean Power [the coalition’s official name] will put a chilling effect on that kind of debate by threatening people ... for voicing their skepticism about dangerous, man-made global warming.”
John Christy, a former lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said more than a third of the members of the American Meteorological Society disagree with the view that “climate change is happening now and is dangerous,” according to one survey conducted by the society. That, combined with the variation among climate change models, should debunk the notion that “virtually every scientist agrees with the [Obama] administration on climate change.”
The initiative of the attorneys general appears designed to “intimidate those who disagree with the administration on climate issues,” said Christy, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and former Southern Baptist missionary. “Climate science, as almost everyone knows, is a pretty murky science. We don’t predict it well at all.
“... To stifle those like me, who spend a lot of time actually building data sets and looking carefully at the global data ... and come to different conclusions than the administration, is an attack on free speech and free thought,” said Christy, who testified before Congress in February that “extreme climate events” are not increasing due to human-induced climate change.
Jeffrey Riley, professor of ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said the 17 attorneys general are not proposing “the best way forward” in the climate change debate.
“Few deny that the climate is changing – it always has,” Riley said. “The debate is on the cause. In spite of the public rhetoric that declares scientific consensus, the debate is still out. Public and political rhetoric on this issue is neither truth nor an argument for truth. Christians who hold that we are stewards of the earth ought to be interested in truth, and for that reason should not support any action that stifles legitimate scientific and economic debate.
“These state attorneys general (attorneys general don’t even agree), who are not experts in the science and appear only to listen to the loudest and best funded proponents of human-caused climate change, are not acting on all the evidence,” Riley continued. “They should know better than to act essentially on hearsay or, more importantly, without a legitimately established law to guide prosecution. Threat is not the best way forward. The better way is to continue to research clean and efficient energy, support a clean use of fossil fuels, and let the scientific method continue to work on determining cause for current climate trends.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/14/2016 11:18:58 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Boot camp’ links First Baptist & area churches

April 14 2016 by Todd Gray, Kentucky Western Recorder

A county seat First Baptist Church and the local Baptist association have entered into a partnership to send pastors to “boot camp.”
Revitalization Pastor’s Bootcamp” is being hosted by First Baptist in Madisonville, Ky., and sponsored by the Little Bethel Baptist Association to help equip and encourage pastors to lead their churches into better days of ministry health and effectiveness.
The monthly training event, based loosely on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, addresses 12 topics relevant to church revitalization, such as discovering current reality; repentance and prayer in the life of the leader; receiving God’s vision; and dealing with conflict. Each session offers specific instruction by providing a speaker and related resources.


Pastors gather monthly for the “Revitalization Pastor’s Bootcamp” in Madisonville, Ky., sponsored by Little Bethel Baptist Association and hosted by First Baptist Church.

Cost for the 12-month event is being shared by First Baptist and the 48-church association.
In an interview, Stephen Seaford, transitional interim pastor of First Baptist, and Bill Egbert, director of missions for the Little Bethel Baptist Association, explained why they wanted to partner for the training initiative.
Seaford said that as a transitional interim he wants to see First Baptist take a lead in ministering to pastors and churches in the area. The church has a great facility and resources that could be a blessing to the larger church community, he noted. He also wants to strengthen relationships between the church, the association and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Egbert agreed that First Baptist is an excellent host church and that an effort for undergirding church leaders is needed.
Egbert said he would like for pastors and churches to recognize the need for revitalization and put action plans in place. The first step toward revitalization, he said, entails discovering how things are in one’s place of ministry, then taking steps to address issues that have emerged.
Egbert said the leaders involved thus far “have loved it” and shown a desire to serve Jesus and to see their churches strengthened. And he feels the meetings have strengthened his relationship with pastors.
Seaford would like for participants to see that revitalization indeed is possible and to realize that they are not alone in regard to ministry locally and with the state convention.
Ministry can be a lonely occupation, Seaford said, and he hopes participants will recognize they are not in competition but in cooperation with each other and will encourage each other.
For First Baptist, there has been a sense of satisfaction in serving other churches, Seaford said, noting that the congregation feels good about offering their facility, staff, resources and meal preparation to benefit others.
Seaford said he has sought to help First Baptist realize that “our mission is bigger than us and that we can reach beyond our local church and minister to pastors and churches.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Gray is the western regional consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This article first appeared in the Western Recorder at westernrecorder.org, the convention’s newsjournal.)

4/14/2016 11:13:40 AM by Todd Gray, Kentucky Western Recorder | with 0 comments

Displaying results 51-60 (of 103)
 |<  <  2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11  >  >|