April 2018

Housing discrimination still draws focus 50 years later

April 13 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

On the 50th anniversary of America’s Fair Housing Act, Baptists noted progress in eliminating race-based housing discrimination while also citing a need for further improvement.
 
Economist and ethicist Craig Mitchell told Baptist Press (BP) the volume of housing discrimination today isn’t “anywhere near” what it was “50 years ago or 30 years ago” thanks in part to the Fair Housing Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on April 11, 1968.

Screen capture from thegospelcoalition.org
At the MLK50 conference cosponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Chicago pastor Charlie Dates said a failure to combat housing discrimination is among black Christians’ frustrations “with our white evangelical brothers and sisters.”


The bill outlawed discrimination in rental, sale and financing of housing based on race, religion and national origin.
 
Yet housing challenges remain. At the MLK50 conference cosponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Chicago pastor Charlie Dates said a failure to combat housing discrimination is among black Christians’ frustrations “with our white evangelical brothers and sisters.”
 
“We want you to tell your city fathers” the discriminatory housing practices of “contract leasing, redlining and neighborhood improvement laws – intended to keep us living in segregated quarters – [were] offensive to God and that you wouldn’t stand for [them], by the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Dates, pastor of Chicago’s Progressive Baptist Church, said in an April 3 address.
 
Some of the practices he referenced were among those outlawed by the Fair Housing Act.
 
Contract leasing was a practice by which lenders would “pretend” to sell a home to African Americans but actually lease it, Dates said in an interview with BP. Redlining referenced some financial institutions’ practice of refusing to grant loans for housing in minority neighborhoods. Neighborhood improvement laws have helped raise property values in urban neighborhoods, but at times they have driven prices too high for poor, minority residents to afford.
 
Dates said members of the church he pastors still experience forms of housing discrimination.
 
For example, low property values in many minority neighborhoods result in less property tax revenue and, in turn, less money for local public schools than is available in affluent neighborhoods, Dates said. Mortgage insurance also is more expensive in some minority neighborhoods, he said, and the comparatively lower wages of educated black workers may prevent them from moving into the same neighborhoods as their white peers.
 
According to an April 11 National Public Radio report, the Fair Housing Act “has only been selectively enforced,” and “a lot of the same neighborhoods in big cities that were redlined in the 1930s and 1940s have been locked out of the economy. They don’t benefit during boom times, and they’re devastated during downturns.”
 
Dates, a speaker at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference, said, “It’s primarily the black church that is arguing against this” type of housing discrimination. In some instances, white churches have left racially transitioning neighborhoods “rather than living in those neighborhoods [and] protesting.”
 
Anglo believers should ask government officials to invest funds for “quality housing, grocery stores and schools ... outside their neighborhoods” and in “the neighborhoods where people need them the most,” Dates said. Anglo churches may want to consider partnering with African American churches to help struggling neighborhoods, he said, and some Anglo believers may want to consider moving into black neighborhoods.
 
Mitchell agreed some housing discrimination still exists and can be “as simple as telling people ‘this place of housing is no longer available’” or “arbitrarily raising the price so the person who applies for housing may not get it.”
 
For churches, combatting housing discrimination should include reminders from the pulpit that “we serve a God who knows what’s in our hearts, and we need to do right by all men because of it,” said Mitchell, an African American who has taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Criswell College.
 
Byron Day, president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the SBC, said he is not aware of any explicit housing discrimination in the region where he ministers – a Maryland county that is “a little more expensive.” The Fair Housing Act “has certainly helped,” he said.
 
However, “cognitive bias” against blacks and other minorities may cause them to be denied housing loans at times, Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., told BP.
 
“Having roundtable discussions with local [government] representatives” is one way for Christians to address housing discrimination, Day said, adding pastors should address racism generally as it arises in the biblical texts they preach.
 
Former NAAF President K. Marshall Williams said he “deeply appreciate[s] the struggle and the sacrifices made by many on this the 50th anniversary the Fair Housing Act,” but “I am grieving that housing discrimination is still problematic and another evidence of systemic and institutional racism in our land.”
 
“In a multiplicity of our cities, urban gentrification seems to be not just about improving housing and making neighborhoods safe, but it’s essentially taking over and redefining cultures and urban environments all over the nation, primarily in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods,” Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, told BP in written comments.
 
“The intentional displacement of many who are poor, without service or recourse, resulting in increased poverty, emotional distress and hopelessness and in some cases homelessness, is an abomination to our God,” Williams said.
 
He urged churches and conventions to “stand up for righteousness by withdrawing their monies from banking institutions that are known to not adhere to fair lending practices which are still plaguing our members and our communities.”
 
“We need to lead not just in orthodoxy but in orthopraxy by being light in the midst of a society that is obsessed with the accumulation of this world’s goods of perishable product at the expense of the least of these,” Williams said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)


Related articles:
Livestream for MLK50 surpasses 1 million views
SBC should reflect diverse makeup, MLK50 panelists say
Call for diversity in SBC leadership resonates at MLK50
MLK50: Christians must pay price for racial unity
Southern Baptists, others lament at MLK50 conference
MLK honored on 50th anniversary of death
$1.5M raised for MLK50 scholarship initiative
 

4/13/2018 10:12:01 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gateway’s Iorg releases book on leading through change

April 13 2018 by Aaron Wilson, Gateway Seminary

Jeff Iorg knows a thing or two about leading a ministry through major change.
 
As president of Gateway Seminary, Iorg was responsible for relocating the 70-year-old institution – along with its employees and students – to a new location 400 miles away.


Now, Iorg is sharing the account of the relocation and other stories of successful change in his book, Leading Major Change in Your Ministry, by B&H Publishing Group.
 
Faced with a deteriorating campus and up against stiff community opposition to redevelopment, Iorg made the difficult decision to transition one of the nation’s largest seminaries – previously known as Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary – from its location in Mill Valley, Calif., to its new main campus in Ontario, Calif.
 
This move, completed in 2016, involved creating a fresh organizational structure, forming a new compensation strategy, upgrading technology and renaming the seminary.
 
In his new book, Iorg presents a model for how such decisions should be approached. He draws insight not only from the seminary relocation but also from his time spent as a pastor of a local church, as a church planter and as executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention.
 
“Decisions about major change require thoughtful, prayerful, courageous leadership,” Iorg writes. “Leaders need more than an intuitive feeling, an experienced hunch, or a moving emotional moment to solidify a decision to lead a major change.”
 
Iorg says his experience includes shepherding a traditional church to step outside its comfort zone, creating a new church’s organization from scratch, building new facilities and developing a new denominational paradigm with organizational changes to sustain it.
 
“My hope is these leadership experiences, along with the work done by so many colleagues in various ministry organizations, will be instructive,” he writes.
 
Iorg’s isn’t the only voice included in the book. Sprinkled throughout are testimonies of alumni, faculty members and a few of Gateway Seminary’s more than 2,000 students who lived through the relocation. Their perspectives show how major change can affect everyone in a ministry and how leaders can make hard decisions while still caring for the people they oversee.
 
Still, Iorg paints an honest picture of the challenging nature of change in ministry. With a chapter titled “Major Change is Messy and Difficult,” he candidly offers advice on how to encourage healthy conflict.
 
“Leaders must live through some conflict, likely making some mistakes in dealing with it, as part of learning how to manage it well,” he writes. “Relational battle scars are both an occupational hazard and experiential necessity for mastering this difficult area of ministry leadership.”
 
While Iorg’s book provides pragmatic advice for how ministry leaders can “get the job done” when enacting change, it also emphasizes the ultimate goal of glorifying God.
 
“God is glorified when a major change is worthy of being done in his name,” Iorg writes in the concluding chapter of his book. “Grand projects that require sacrificial effort and result in people becoming Christians, churches being started or enlarged, human needs being met, or holy causes advanced are worthy of God’s name.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
 

4/13/2018 10:08:28 AM by Aaron Wilson, Gateway Seminary | with 0 comments



Livestream for MLK50 surpasses 1 million views

April 13 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

An evangelical Christian conference honoring Martin Luther King Jr. found an audience that far surpassed even the 4,000 people gathered April 3-4 at the Memphis Convention Center.
 
The number of views of the conference’s proceedings by live video streaming exceeded one million, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) announced April 9. By comparison, TGC’s 2017 national conference recorded 57,000 livestream views, according to the organization.


The massive online audience viewed the event – “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop” – on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King, the leading light of the civil rights movement who was shot down April 4, 1968, in Memphis. TGC and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) co-hosted the conference, which was held in conjunction with many remembrances in Memphis of King.
 
The conference not only honored King’s life and ministry but assessed the state of racial justice in America and what is required to achieve unity. Rooting their appeals in the gospel of Christ, speakers and panelists told the Memphis and online audiences that Christians must pay a price to gain racial unity and white evangelicals need to repent of their failures on the issue.
 
Conference organizers pointed to the work of God and a new desire to overcome racism in explaining the livestream popularity of the conference.
 
“We earnestly planned for this event for almost two years, but we attribute the high attendance and incredibly big livestream audience to a movement of the Spirit of God,” said Daniel Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications. “This moment – 50 years since the death of Dr. King – and the rising racial tension in America have brought us to a unique place.
 
“There is a fresh hunger among believers to see the church of Jesus Christ live out the [g]ospel and display what the multi-ethnic kingdom of God looks like,” Darling told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “We are overjoyed that God has given us an opportunity to obey the [g]ospel demands and work for racial justice in our communities. We hope that this event is just the beginning of a movement of repentance and action in churches and communities across the country.”
 
Collin Hansen, TGC’s editorial director, told BP in a written statement, “The rising generation of Christian leaders wants guidance in how the Bible and [g]ospel of Jesus Christ guide the public practice of their faith. Never before have we seen these churches and denominations come together with unshakable confidence in the power of God and His Word for an honest, sometimes painful and ultimately necessary conversation over our national struggles with racism.”
 
The conference included the announcement of an initiative and the collection of an offering to benefit Memphis:

  • Conference hosts unveiled the MLK50 Dream Forward Scholarship Initiative, which will enable minority students in Memphis to receive financial aid to participating Christian colleges, universities and seminaries. As of April 12, $1.516 million has been raised, and more than 20 schools are participating. Several are Southern Baptist seminaries and Baptist colleges or universities. More schools are expected to join in the effort.
  • Attendees gave to an offering for the Memphis Christian Pastors Network during the conference. The offering to the network, a multi-ethnic coalition seeking to foster racial unity and meet needs in the city, totaled $17,082 as of April 12.

 
Video of the conference’s keynote sessions – as well as audio or video of the breakout sessions – is available at thegospelcoalition.org/conference/mlk50.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)


Related articles:
Housing discrimination still draws focus 50 years later
SBC should reflect diverse makeup, MLK50 panelists say
Call for diversity in SBC leadership resonates at MLK50
MLK50: Christians must pay price for racial unity
Southern Baptists, others lament at MLK50 conference
MLK honored on 50th anniversary of death
$1.5M raised for MLK50 scholarship initiative
 

4/13/2018 10:04:15 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



TRUSTEES: MBTS adds Köstenberger, renames college

April 12 2018 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) trustees have elected Andreas J. Köstenberger to the full-time faculty and announced the renaming/rebranding of Midwestern College, to now be known as Spurgeon College.
 
Based upon a recommendation from their academic committee, trustees elected Köstenberger as research professor of New Testament and biblical theology during their April 9-10 meeting at the Kansas City, Mo., campus. Köstenberger also will serve as director of a forthcoming Center for Biblical Studies at Midwestern that will reflect his longtime scholarly vision of restoring biblical foundations for the family, the church and society.

Andreas Kostenberger


Köstenberger currently is senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C., where he has been on the faculty since 1996. He also serves as editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.
 
“We could not be more pleased to announce the election of Andreas Köstenberger to the faculty of Midwestern Seminary,” MBTS President Jason Allen said. “Dr. Köstenberger is among the most accomplished New Testament scholars in the greater evangelical world today. In fact, within our denomination and conservative evangelicalism in general, Dr. Köstenberger is part of a ‘Big Three,’ which includes D.A. Carson and Tom Schreiner.
 
“In addition to bolstering our already-robust biblical studies department through his research, teaching and writing expertise, Dr. Köstenberger will provide mentorship to our younger faculty members as well,” Allen said. “We welcome the entire Köstenberger family to the Midwestern Seminary community and look forward to the Kingdom impact they will have for many years to come.”
 
Köstenberger said he is “deeply humbled and honored by the invitation to join the faculty of Midwestern Seminary and to direct the new Center for Biblical Studies. I love President Allen’s commitment to the centrality of the Bible and am confident the seminary will continue to thrive under his dynamic, visionary leadership. I am also looking forward to serving alongside other prolific scholars who love the Lord and love serving His church.”
 
Jason Duesing, Midwestern’s provost, said he has known Köstenberger “for almost 20 years, having first studied with him at SEBTS. To have him join us at Midwestern in these days is a vital addition to our developing team of faculty-scholars. But even more, it is a joy to have the Köstenberger family join us as they are wonderful and delightful people and will contribute much to our entire community beyond their capable and proven scholarship.”
 
Köstenberger is a well-established author, having written, edited or translated dozens of books, including The Final Days of Jesus, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek and God, Marriage & Family. He also is the editor of several volumes in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament, Biblical Theology of the New Testament and Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation.
 
He is the founder of Biblical Foundations, a resource center devoted to encouraging a return to the biblical foundations in the home, the church and society.
 
Köstenberger holds a Ph.D. in New Testament and biblical studies from the Chicago-area Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; M.Div. in cross-cultural/New Testament/counseling from Columbia Biblical Seminary in South Carolina; and master’s and doctoral degrees in social and economic Sciences from Vienna University in Austria.
 
He and his wife Margaret have four children.
 

College renamed for Spurgeon

In other action, Midwestern Baptist College was renamed “Spurgeon College” as trustees approved a recommendation from their executive committee.
 
“We at Midwestern Seminary are thrilled to announce that Midwestern College is being renamed and relaunched as Spurgeon College,” Allen said. “We believe it portends a new season of great training for young men and young women wanting to impact the world for the cause of Christ.”
 
Allen noted that the undergraduate arm of MBTS has been known as Midwestern College for the past decade. The school’s administrators have undertaken a season of review and reflection over the past several years for how to best position the undergraduate program to impact and to advance the Kingdom of Christ.
 
As a result, Allen added, Spurgeon College was born. The name isn’t just derived from the fact that Midwestern Seminary owns the Spurgeon Library of 6,000-plus books and artifacts from his personal collection; rather, Allen said it focuses more on the person, Charles H. Spurgeon, and his character.
 
“More than the books and the artifacts of the Charles Spurgeon Library, we share his passions, his convictions, his commitment to ministry, to serving the local church and to reaching the community and the world with the Lord Jesus Christ,” Allen said. “Certainly, Spurgeon was great in the pulpit, but also he founded some 66 different ministries and different points of social and cultural impact.”
 
Among those was an affinity for education, and Allen said the mission of Spurgeon College will be to educate the next generation of leaders to impact the world in the workforce.
 
“Through our college, we will maintain a Bible-based, ministry-focused curriculum, but also alongside that will be degree options for those who are not only called to serve the local church but to also be prepared to make a thousand different touch-points of light for the cause of Christ stateside and around the world.
 
“Just like Midwestern Seminary is known emphatically as being ‘For the Church,’” Allen said, “Spurgeon College will be known emphatically as ‘For the Kingdom.’ It speaks to the breadth of the ministry, and it also speaks to our hopefulness that from this place, indeed, the Kingdom will be shaped and expanded.”
 
Sam Bierig, who was named dean of the college in February, will lead Spurgeon College into this new season. Bierig noted that the college will maintain its focus on biblically-based degrees as well as providing students with disciplines that can train them to work in the marketplace.
 
“Spurgeon College is hard at work to expand degree offerings in the fields of Bible, business and education,” Bierig said. “It is our desire at Spurgeon College to raise up Kingdom-minded leaders for the church, marketplace and educational institutions throughout the United States and abroad.”
 
Duesing echoed Allen’s views about the college’s namesake, saying, “The naming of our college for C.H. Spurgeon brings a smile and reflects our joyful mission. For, in the name Spurgeon, we are not only upholding the legacy and core theological commitments of this Baptist theologian and preacher, but we are pointing to what Spurgeon spent his every breath pointing [to] – namely Jesus Christ.”
 
To learn more about Spurgeon College, visit spurgeoncollege.com.
 

Other business

During his presidential report, Allen announced record enrollment for the spring semester, both in headcount and hours sold.
 
“We are grateful to the Lord that He continues to allow us to be in a season of incredible enrollment growth,” Allen said. “If all trends continue, we are on course to have 3,300 students enrolled this academic year. This is up from 1,107 students in 2010-11. Our continued focus is the residential M.Div., but our online, master’s and doctoral degree programs continue to flourish as well.”
 
Allen presented the coming year’s budget of more than $22 million to trustees, noting that the aim of the institution’s business model is to properly steward the finances supplied by God as provided through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program, tuition and other revenue streams.
 
He also relayed an update on the progress of construction on the Mathena Student Center and Trustee Building renovation, which included tours of both spaces.
 
In faculty recommendations from the trustees’ academic committee, Rustin Umstattd was re-elected to a three-year term as assistant professor of theology and ministry as were Stephen Andrews as professor of Hebrew and Old Testament; Alan Branch as professor of Christian ethics; and Michael McMullen as professor of church history. Trustees also promoted Umstattd to associate professor of theology and ministry; John Lee to associate professor of New Testament; and Sung Jin Park to associate professor of biblical studies.
 
With nominations from their governance committee, trustees elected their 2018-19 officers: John Mathena, a businessman from Edmond, Okla., as chairman; Lee Roberson, a businessman from Hobbs, N.M., first vice chairman; Chad McDonald, a pastor from Lenexa, Kan., second vice chairman; and Bryan Pain, a pastor from Duncan, Okla., secretary.
 
Outgoing trustee chairman Ken Parker welcomed one new board member, Billy Van Devender, a member of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.
 
MBTS’s 35-member trustee board meets biannually in October and April.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

4/12/2018 9:20:52 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



Hispanic families impacted by raid prompt outreach

April 12 2018 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

Tennessee Baptists are ministering to families affected by the raid on a Bean Station slaughterhouse on April 5.
 
Federal agents raided Southeastern Provisions, a cattle slaughterhouse in Grainger County in Tennessee, as part of a probe on allegations that the company was paying undocumented immigrants cash to avoid paying $2.5 million in payroll taxes over the past three years, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Photo by William Burton, Baptist and Reflector
Approximately 800 people attended a prayer rally at Hillcrest Elementary School in Morristown, Tenn., in support of Hispanic families in the community.


Of the more than 95 employees who were detained until their immigration status was verified, approximately 54 have been held for possible deportation due to their undocumented status, according to news reports. Those who have been released reportedly still face court dates and possible deportation.
 
William Burton, ethnic church planting specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, was in East Tennessee over the past weekend for a Hispanic Youth Evangelism Conference. He noted the week-ending events had taken a toll on the Hispanic youth.
 
“The atmosphere at the conference was very somber,” Burton said. “Many of the youth were very emotional due to the uncertainty of their parents and their futures.”
 
Burton noted some of the 100-plus or so children whose families were employed by the slaughterhouse went home from school only to find one or both parents were in the process of deportation. Area churches and school teachers provided housing for the children until family members were located.
 
Pastor Alfonso Jerezano, of La Gran Comision Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., agreed that the raid has created a lot of fear among the Hispanic community.
 
“People are afraid,” he said, noting parents were afraid to send their children to school or even go to their jobs. Burton said three Tennessee Baptist Hispanic churches were directly affected because they had members who were employees of the slaughterhouse.
 
Tennessee Baptist churches in the area have stepped up to assist families who have been affected, Burton said. First Baptist Church, Morristown, and Hillcrest Baptist Church, Morristown, along with other churches of Nolachucky Baptist Association, have sent food, water and toiletries to family members and also provided toiletry kits to those who were being deported, he said.
 
Jerezano has been leading efforts to assist local families. He told Nashville Public Radio, “The Word tells us that we have to work together in love and unity in all times,” he said. “But it is at times like this that we can actually live out what it means to love our neighbor.”
 
Burton said Baptists should not dwell on the political aspect of what happened, but focus on the compassion side.
 
“This is about people created in the image of God who are hurting and need to know there is a God in heaven who loves them so much,” Burton said. Ultimately, Baptists must share the gospel with people who need Jesus, he said, adding that funds from the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions will be used to assist La Gran Comision Baptist Church in evangelistic outreach and ministry in the community.
 
Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist, Morristown, agreed that the focus shouldn’t be on politics, but needs to be on the innocent children who are affected by what has happened.
 
“I always want our nation to do the right thing but we also need to do it in the right way. We don’t need to forget the children,” Haun said.
 
Area churches are continuing to come to the aid of families and children, Haun said. “It’s about taking care of the defenseless,” he noted.
 
David Williams, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Morristown, echoed Haun’s sentiments.
 
“My concern is for the children and the families affected,” he said.
 
Williams and Jerezano participated in a prayer rally on April 9 at Hillcrest Elementary School, where some of the Hispanic children attend.
 
Nearly 800 people attended, according to estimates. Williams said his prayer focused on “Jesus loves the little children” regardless of their color.
 
Jerezano is grateful for the community support from Baptists and others who have offered their prayers, time and resources to assist the affected families. He said it will be a long-term need.
 
“The immigration process is long. It will not be over in a few weeks,” the pastor predicted. Families will need help in the long-term as well as in the present, he said.
 
“Keep praying for us,” Jerezano urged.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.org, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
 

4/12/2018 9:18:08 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments



LMCO gifts 4.4% ahead of last spring’s receipts

April 12 2018 by Julie McGowan, IMB

Southern Baptists’ contributions to support international missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LCMO) are 4.4 percent ahead of last year’s pace, according to a report by Rodney Freeman, International Mission Board (IMB) treasurer and vice president of support services.
 
At the end of March 2018, IMB had received $124,093,278 for the 2017-2018 campaign, which began Oct. 1 and continues through Sept. 30. The total is $5,225,589 (4.4 percent) ahead of LMCO receipts at this point last year.

Baptist Record photo
Three-year-old Lily Anne Herrington, right, joins her dad, Chaise Herrington, in presenting a check for more than $400 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions through their church, Big Creek Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Miss.


The total represents money received by the IMB or postmarked by the close of the last business day of March 2018 and includes receipts from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, state conventions, churches and individuals.
 
Freeman also reported that at the end of March, IMB had received $50,776,311 in Cooperative Program (CP) funding for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. The total is $1,188,964, or 2.4 percent, ahead of the pace for 2016-2017.
 

Lottie and Lily Anne

LMCO gifts come from Southern Baptists of all ages. This year’s offering took on new significance for Mississippi pastor Chaise Herrington. He and his wife Lydia wrestled with how to teach their children about Southern Baptists’ emphasis on international missions.
 
“As we learned the amazing story of a woman who gave herself away for God’s glory among the Chinese people, my three-year-old daughter Lily Anne expressed concern for the hopeless spiritual condition of people living without Christ in other countries,” wrote Herrington, who serves at Big Creek Baptist Church in Waynesboro.
 
Lily Anne determined she needed to give “a bunch of money” to send the gospel to the nations. Her solution was to bake and sell dozens of cookies with the help of her parents, who expected to raise $50-$100.
 
“Despite our shamefully low expectations, I was privileged to stand beside Lily as she presented a check to our church for $415.51, the result of baking nearly 50 dozen cookies,” Herrington reported.
 

Every gift counts

Like every other dollar given through the Lottie Moon offering, Lily Anne’s gift cooperates with others to support more than 3,550 international missionaries around the world – such as fellow Mississippian Geraldine Smith from Pascagoula. She and her husband George, from Nevada, have served in Uganda in East Africa for 17 years. There, the Smiths share the hope of the gospel with people who traditionally adhere to family religion and animism.

North Park Baptist Church, Facebook photo
George and Geraldine Smith have served as missionaries to Uganda for 17 years. Their work as International Mission Board missionaries is supported through Southern Baptists’ gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.


Partnering with the IMB, every church – regardless of size, resources or unique needs – can play a role in taking the gospel to unreached people, and that includes supporting Southern Baptist missionaries through the LMCO as Lily Anne did.
 
“Not everyone who desires to further the mission of God can become a lifetime foreign missionary like Lottie Moon,” Chaise Herrington wrote. “Nevertheless, Lily’s efforts show that everyone can pray, and that even the youngest and the poorest of us can give to God’s mission. ... What would happen if we had such confidence that God would use our feeble efforts? I truly believe that the world would be significantly impacted for God’s glory.”
 
The LMCO campaign year historically ran from June 1 to May 31 each year, but that campaign year did not align with IMB’s fiscal year, which runs Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. IMB finance leaders, in conjunction with the board of trustees, proposed to align the fiscal year and the LMCO campaign to Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Messengers voted to approve the fiscal year change during the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. Therefore, gifts contributed from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018, will apply to the 2017-2018 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
 
To read additional specific ministry examples about how LMCO gifts are used, visit IMB.org/LMCO; to give now, click netcommunity.imb.org/LottieMoon.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is the IMB’s public relations manager.)
 

4/12/2018 9:11:57 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments



Bill Hybels resigns amid misconduct accusations

April 12 2018 by Lisa Cannon Green, Facts & Trends

Bill Hybels, the pastor who grew Willow Creek Community Church into one of the nation’s most influential megachurches, stepped down April 10 amid accusations of a pattern of sexual misconduct.
 
Hybels, who has denied all of the accusations, called some of them “misleading” and others “entirely false.”

Screen capture from willowcreek.tv
Bill Hybels, the pastor who grew Willow Creek Community Church into one of the nation’s most influential megachurches, stepped down April 10 amid accusations of a pattern of sexual misconduct.


However, in a meeting live-streamed at willowcreek.tv, he told the church: “I too often placed myself in situations that I would have been far wiser to avoid.”
 
Hybels’ announcement comes 18 days after the Chicago Tribune published a long but inconclusive account of allegations against him by a handful of former church members. Multiple women told the Tribune they experienced unwanted advances from Hybels.
 
Hybels told the church Tuesday night, “I’ve been accused of many things I simply did not do.”
 
He acknowledged that in some situations, “I communicated things that were perceived in ways that I did not intend. At times, it made people feel uncomfortable. I was blind to this dynamic for far too long.”
 
He also apologized for reacting in anger when accused: “I sincerely wish now that my initial response had been one of listening and humble reflection.”
 
Hybels is stepping aside not only from the pastorate but also from hosting Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit, a two-day event in August that reaches hundreds of thousands of leaders worldwide.
 
He emphasized that leaving was “my decision and mine alone, prayerfully made,” for the sake of the ministries caught up in the controversy surrounding him.
 
“They can’t flourish to their full potential when the valuable time and energy of their leaders are divided,” Hybels said.
 
After a time of reflection with counselors, Hybels said, he intends to return to Willow Creek as a member of the congregation.
 
“I feel the need to look deep inside myself and determine what God wants to teach me through all of this,” Hybels said.
 
Last year, Hybels had announced plans to retire this fall. In a statement after the Tribune’s story, Willow Creek said the evangelical church had full confidence in Hybels and that he would remain in his role as senior pastor until his planned transition in October.
 
As Willow Creek’s founding pastor, Hybels has been one of the most influential American evangelical leaders. The church has grown from 125 people at its launch in 1975 to an attendance of 25,000 at eight Chicago-area locations today, according to the church’s website.
 
Read Hybels’ full statement at willowcreek.org/en/willow-creek-announcement.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources and for LifeWay’s Facts&Trends, factsandtrends.net.)
 

4/12/2018 8:58:27 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments



Boy who ‘did not go to heaven’ sues Tyndale for damages

April 12 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Alex Malarkey, the boy who claimed in a bestselling book that he went to heaven while comatose from a car accident, is suing his publisher Tyndale House for damages including book profits from the since-retracted story.

Photo from Twitter
Alex Malarkey, suing Tyndale House over the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, was baptized by sprinkling on Easter in DeGraff, Ohio.


The 2010 book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven listed Malarkey as a coauthor with his father Kevin, but Malarkey retracted the story in 2015. “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible,” he told Tyndale and book sellers at the time, which included LifeWay Christian Resources.
 
In a lawsuit filed April 9 in DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton, Ill., Malarkey said his father fabricated and solely authored the tale based on Alex’s two-month coma, signed the book deal with Tyndale and received all of the profits due the authors, with no compensation going to Alex, who was 10 at the time of publication. Both father and son were listed as the book’s authors, but in the lawsuit, Malarkey denies any authorship.
 
The suit seeks compensatory damages “at least equal to the amount of profits derived from the sale of the book,” punitive damages “which will exceed $50,000.00,” and a permanent injunction for Tyndale House “to take all steps reasonably possible to disassociate Alex’s name from the Book,” according to 32-page lawsuit.
 
Malarkey, who turned 20 April 11, is a quadriplegic living on Social Security in Huntsville, Ohio, where he and his mother Beth who cares for him are on the brink of homelessness, according to the lawsuit.
 
Tyndale declared the book and its ancillary products, including an audiobook and DVD documentary, out of print in January, 2015, and allowed retailers to return all inventory. LifeWay pulled the book at that time and announced two months later that they would stop selling all resources claiming “experiential testimonies about heaven.” Baptist Press was awaiting a comment from Tyndale House at press time.
 
According to a YouTube video his mother posted on Twitter, Malarkey was baptized April 1 by Dana Kidder, pastor of the nondenominational Logansville Church in DeGraff, Ohio. Among Malarkey’s claims for punitive damages in the lawsuit is the contention that his “testimony for Christ will be perpetually marred by the need to tell every person who asks that what they read about him in the book is a string of lies.”
 
In 2014, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution affirming “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story has been edited to correct the name of Alex's father, Kevin. Based on media reports, the article incorrectly stated that the father was deceased. We apologize for the error. Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 
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4/12/2018 8:56:13 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pew: Christian women more devout than Christian men

April 11 2018 by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends

Pew Research has found a significant gender gap concerning religious beliefs and practice among self-identified Christian men and women in America. More than 7 in 10 U.S. Christian women (72 percent) say religion is very important to them, compared to 62 percent of Christian men.
 
The gap is larger in the United States than in other nations like Canada, the U.K., Germany and France. A similar gap appears when comparing beliefs about the Bible or certainty about God’s existence.
 
A full 80 percent of Christian women say they believe in God with absolute certainty and 78 percent say the Bible is the word of God. Both of those numbers drop to 72 percent for Christian men.
 
Christian women are also more likely to practice their faith with behaviors like praying daily and attending church, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study.
 
Nearly three-quarters of them (74 percent) say they pray at least once daily, while only 60 percent of Christian men say the same.
 
The gender gap on daily prayer is larger among Catholics (67 percent for women versus 49 percent for men) and mainline Protestants (62 percent versus 44 percent).
 
With church attendance, the gender gap is shrinking, but still considerable. In the mid-1980s, 38 percent of women attended religious services weekly, while 25 percent of men did so – a 13-point gap.
 
In 2012, the gap had shrunk to 6 points, but that was due to a larger drop in attendance among women. Twenty-eight percent of women attended at least weekly, while 22 percent of men did the same.
 
As a whole, outside of Christianity, men are less religious than women.
 
American men are more likely to be religiously unaffiliated than women.
 
And among the unaffiliated, the men are less likely to ascribe to religious beliefs.
 
Fewer than 1 in 4 religiously unaffiliated men (23 percent) say they are absolutely certain God exists, compared to about one-third of unaffiliated women.
 
Roughly one-quarter of unaffiliated women say they pray at least daily, but only 15 percent of unaffiliated men say the same.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends, factsandtrends.net.)
 

4/11/2018 10:23:38 AM by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments



Church experiments with online video, chat

April 11 2018 by Brian Koonce, Missouri Pathway

Watching a church’s worship service online can be a way for those who are sick to still participate and feel like they are part of church. But Crossway Baptist Church is among those congregations taking streaming video to another level in an effort to harness social media for the gospel.
 
Using a service called Church Online Platform, Crossway will not only broadcast its services over the internet, but the church’s media team can chat privately back and forth with viewers while the service is taking place. Chris Rhodes, the church’s media director, said ideally it should help them connect with viewers who are not yet believers. It is similar to Facebook Live, but it is available on the church’s website and is available to non-Facebook users. The new service was scheduled to launch at the Springfield, Mo., church on Easter Sunday.
 
“A lot of people have questions, whether it’s about the church or something they heard in the message,” Rhodes said. “We hope to have people available to respond to the gospel just like we have counselors who can talk with someone during an invitation time.”
 
It’s a virtual way to privately talk someone through any spiritual questions they have, clear up any confusion about any church position on doctrine or scripture or just help to create a better sense of community, he noted.
 
Once churches already have a streaming service, the free platform lets churches integrate sermon notes or the biblical text. On its website, the service is described as more than a video player: “It’s an agreeing-in-prayer, real-life, around-the-world community builder.”
 
Crossway’s members are already engaged with the church on social media, and Rhodes said he hopes this will be one more way they can use technology to share Jesus.
 
“They’re excited about what our church is doing, and they believe in the message that’s being preached,” he said. “It’s part of them being so community oriented and wanting to reach out to the lost. They’re just really plugged in.”
 
For information about Church Online Platform, go to churchonlineplatform.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
 

4/11/2018 10:21:04 AM by Brian Koonce, Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments



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