April 2019

Michigan and NAMB’s Send Network deepen partnership

April 5 2019 by BSCM Staff

Michigan Baptists are deepening their partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) by adopting a new name for church planting efforts in the state: Send Network – Michigan.

Tim Patterson


Tim Patterson, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM), noted, “With this new initiative our state convention continues to coordinate our field-based strategy, as always, to create new churches throughout our region. The state’s priorities and strategies remain ours.”
 
Now, however, NAMB’s church planting Send Network “and its standards of excellence will be understood as synonymous with Michigan’s church planting efforts.”
 
In the past three years, Patterson recounted, the BSCM “intentionally adopted NAMB’s church planting assessment, orientation, training, coaching and pastoral care as our systems.”

 

Tony Lynn

“The processes and systems driven by NAMB’s national staff function so well that our field-based staff, located in Michigan, are able to spend deeper, personal time with church planters, apprentices and partnering churches,” Patterson said.
 
NAMB President Kevin Ezell expressed gratitude “for our close working partnership with Michigan Baptists. We want to help plant churches everywhere for everyone and this name change reflects the team effort that has already been taking place in Michigan between the Michigan convention and NAMB. Now our efforts will be even more seamless.”


The request to share the label “Send Network” was initiated by the Michigan convention. Tony Lynn, BSCM director of missions who oversees the state’s church planting efforts, said NAMB’s Send Network is “a highly respected and influential force among the nation’s church planting agencies. Asking to be clearly seen as a partner with the Send Network brings a valuable advantage. Send Network’s focus on brotherhood, multiplication and restoration echo the teachings of Christ when He referred to the Kingdom of God throughout His ministry. That focus is attracting quality potential church planters unlike ever before, including Michigan.”
 

 


Send Detroit, one of NAMB’s 32 Send Cities, will continue to operate as it has in the past with its focus on the metro population of 4.3 million people.

Detroit Send City missionary Wayne Parker hosts Catch the Vision tours each year for those who might become partners in planting new churches throughout the greater Detroit area. He said church plants are developing throughout the city at an increasing rate: in the suburban ring, in the rapidly developing midtown and in the core of the urban center. Parker and four church planting catalysts welcome contact from potential church planters and potential church planting partners who believe God may be calling them to serve the greater Detroit area.
 

 


For more information on planting a church or supporting a church through the Send Network, visit namb.net/church-planting/.


(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the Baptist State Convention of Michigan’s communications team.)

4/5/2019 12:36:38 PM by BSCM Staff | with 0 comments



Sexual abuse policy approved for SBTC affiliation

April 5 2019 by Southern Baptist TEXAN Staff

The executive committee of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s (SBTC) Executive Board has approved a policy related to sexual abuse and affiliated churches, the Southern Baptist TEXAN reported April 4.


Based on an interpretation of the SBTC’s faith statement, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the policy would disallow new or continued affiliation by a church whose senior pastor has been convicted of sexual abuse of a child. The policy also prohibits new or continued affiliation by a church that is found to be “indifferent in their response to child sexual abuse.”
 
The policy states, “indifference can be evidenced by, among other things, (a) employing a convicted sex offender in positions other than that of senior pastor, (b) allowing a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer in contact with minors, (c) continuing to employ a person who unlawfully concealed from law enforcement information regarding the sexual abuse of any person by an employee or volunteer of the church or (d) willfully disregarding compliance with child abuse reporting laws.”
 
With Article XV of the BF&M 2000 noting in part that “Christians should oppose ... all forms of sexual immorality,” the SBTC board’s executive committee interprets this article to oppose child sexual abuse as “a form of sexual immorality that is clearly ungodly, morally corrupt and a sin against a holy God,” according to the policy, which was adopted on March 26.
 
SBTC bylaws empower its Credentials Committee, a procedural committee of the convention, to review the qualifications of churches for affiliation. The committee then recommends appropriate action to the SBTC Executive Board or messenger body of the convention for final disposition.
 
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said, “We grieve to hear of any victim of sexual abuse. In an attempt to help churches protect children, the convention has expended a great deal of staff time, conducted several training events, allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for training and employed a consultant to assist this process.
 
“We further expect churches to minister within the parameters of our faith statement and bylaws,” Richards said. “The convention continues to be committed to facilitate sexual abuse awareness and prevention.”
 
In late February this year, the convention announced an initiative to provide no-cost training on sexual abuse awareness to as many as 1,000 affiliated churches, as well as providing five training events during 2019. This initiative continues the convention’s 10-year relationship with MinistrySafe, a company that assists churches and other institutions to prevent sexual abuse.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

4/5/2019 12:33:56 PM by Southern Baptist TEXAN Staff | with 0 comments



Kazakhstan police raid 3rd Baptist church this year

April 5 2019 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

A police raid on a Baptist worship service in Kazakhstan is the latest reported incident in a long string of religious liberty violations in the Central Asian country.
 
The raid, in early March, brought the total to three Baptist churches invaded and fined in the city of Taraz in a seven-week span, according to news sources.
 
Anti-terrorism police forces have filmed, photographed, fingerprinted and threatened church members, and five people have been levied large fines of one or two months’ wages.
 
Government officials say they are coming after the churches because they are meeting without government permission. Such religious liberty violations are a continuing trend, and Baptists aren’t the only ones being targeted, according to Forum 18 news service.
 
Other incidents in 2019 in the country of 18 million people include:
 
– Punishment aimed at Muslims who are praying in ways not sanctioned by the state-controlled Muslim Board. In January, a Muslim in the city of Almaty was fined one month’s wages for saying the word “amen” aloud.
 
– A raid on a group of Hare Krishna devotees who met for chants in an apartment in the city of Atyrau. The case was later dropped.
 
It’s not a new battle for people of faith in Kazakhstan. Religious freedom in the country began deteriorating in late 2011 after the former Soviet satellite’s government adopted a restrictive law banning unregistered religious activity, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
 
Since 2013, the country’s treatment of religious freedom has been problematic enough to earn it a Tier 2 spot on USCIRF’s annual report, a designation just below Countries of Particular Concern. In December 2016, amendments to the law increased penalties and controls even more. The newest USCIRF report released in December 2018 found the country still holding its place in Tier 2.
 
Last year, 165 people, organizations and religious communities were prosecuted for the way they exercised their faith, according to Forum 18.
 
Of these, 139 ended up with some kind of punishment – fines, bans on activity, seizure of materials, jail terms or deportation.
 
Baptist churches make up part of those statistics. Two Baptists served a few days in jail in 2018 for refusing to pay fines – a stance many Baptists in the country take. Most appeal their fines and refuse to pay them, seeing it as a kind of civil disobedience, according to news reports.
 
The newest Baptists fined are no different. Four have appealed their fines, but one – a pensioner – has chosen not to appeal.
 
“Yakov Fot is a pensioner and he chose not to appeal against his fine,” a fellow Baptist told Forum 18. “We don’t pay fines voluntarily, so they’ll take the money from his pension.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)

4/5/2019 12:31:35 PM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Floyd hears hearts, extends hands in conference calls

April 4 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A diversity of hundreds of Southern Baptist leaders shared their concerns with SBC Executive Committee (EC) President-elect Ronnie Floyd in conference video sessions and calls he hosted through April 3 in Dallas.
 

Photo by Adam Covington
Ronnie Floyd, in a press conference after his election April 2 as president of the SBC Executive Committee, sets forth his vision in helping to lead Southern Baptists’ national and international missions and ministries.

Speaking with leaders immediately after his election has been his stated desire since considering the post, Floyd told Baptist Press (BP) April 2.
 
“One of the things I talked about strategically was that if I was elected, that we would spend that first many hours … to try to touch base with as many leaders as we can, to let them know that they’re important to us accomplishing this mission,” Floyd said.
 
“My heart is to just equip them and encourage people to know they’re valuable to us,” he said. “We need them on the team. It’s a time to get engaged. Let’s do it.”
 
Two video conferences and six conference calls engaged groups ranging in size from a dozen to more than 100, including members of the SBC’s Great Commission Council, the Large Church Roundtable, the Mega-Metro pastors fellowship, the Convention Advancement Advisory Council (CAAC), ethnic fellowships, associational mission strategists and prayer leaders, as well as bivocational and small-church pastors, state executives and presidents and young leaders active with the Baptist21 organization.
 
Each group has unique gifts that are valuable and essential to Southern Baptist work, Floyd said, uplifting all groups and closing each session with prayer led by a conference participant.
 
Floyd presented himself as a pastor committed to helping churches and not governing them.
 
Prevalent in the conversations were four initial core values Floyd told the SBC Executive Committee in executive session and later shared with BP:
 
– Upholding that people need Jesus;
 
– Assisting all churches, generations, ethnicities and languages;
 
– Sharing the story of Southern Baptists working at home and globally, and
 
– Mobilizing shared resourcing among Southern Baptists.
 
Floyd otherwise expressed his values, to the EC and subsequently to BP, in four priorities:
 
– Fulfilling the Great Commission; promoting a biblically based, Christ-centered and Holy Spirit-led Southern Baptist culture anchored in John 13:34;
 
– Communicating “compelling stories of what God is doing” through Southern Baptist ministries;
 
– Positioning the SBC for “an era of exponential growth and advancement” including all ethnicities, generations, women, church membership and technology, and;
 
– Encouraging concerted giving to the SBC Cooperative Program of supporting ministry locally, nationally and globally.
 
“We’re just really trying to do everything we can to instill confidence and unity in as many areas that we can” is the way Floyd communicated his goal to the Great Commission Council composed of SBC entity leaders and Woman’s Missionary Union leadership. “We know we have challenges, but we also have great things.”
 
Popular culture is not the only problem Southern Baptists face, Floyd said on many of the calls, but the culture promulgated among Southern Baptists needs to be corrected to exemplify the love Jesus commanded.
 
“I am highly concerned about our own culture within our Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd told fellow Southern Baptists. “We need to learn to love one another again. We need to learn that we’re a family.
 
“We need to learn that people need each other again,” Floyd said. “And we need to help control our minds, control our thoughts, control our words, control our actions towards one another. Our enemy is the enemy called Satan, and our enemy is not each other.”
 
The SBC’s stand against sexual abuse was prevalent among discussions as well, with Floyd and other leaders emphasizing the importance of a wise and unified effort to prevent such crime as the SBC prepares for its 2019 annual meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.
 
“It’s ungodly, it’s sinful, it’s criminal and obviously we would be against it,” Floyd said. “But how we get to the common path of what we do, that has become the issue.”
 
Floyd’s dialogue with the CAAC and the ethnic fellowships summed his game plan in preventing and addressing sexual abuse.
 
“Before Birmingham it will be our goal to get in a room [with SBC leaders] and come to a common solution we can all agree upon,” Floyd said, “where we will not have a bombing in Birmingham, but we will have blessings.”
 
When Southern Baptists leave Birmingham, Floyd said, there should be no doubt about where the SBC stands on the issue of sex abuse “and everything we’re going to try to do to help the churches, everything we’re going to try to do to have safe environments for our children and the vulnerable, and to do everything we can to extend repentance of any of our actions, and move forward in relationship with … a clear convictional, compelling and compassionate commitment and declaration.”

4/4/2019 1:03:57 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Community seeing ‘glimmers of light’ after tornado

April 4 2019 by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist

So much more – that’s what the March 3 tornados were to Rusty Sowell. So much more than he ever could’ve fathomed.
 

Photo by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist
Rusty Sowell, right, pastor of Providence Baptist Church, talks with church member David Dismukes about plans for a permanent monument on the church lawn to memorialize the 23 people killed by tornados March 3 in their rural Alabama community.

He’d heard that tornados sound like a freight train, but as he and his wife laid on the floor and an F-4 storm crossed over their house, he said it was so much louder than a freight train could ever be.
 
And it was more deadly than Sowell ever could’ve imagined as he wrapped up church services at Providence Baptist Church that morning, the rural congregation he’s served as pastor for the past 35 years.
 
“Our fire chief alerted me that there were some serious weather alerts, so we opened up the basement of the church as a shelter for anyone who wanted to come,” Sowell recounted.
 
People lined up. A Providence Baptist team trained in disaster response began registering people as they entered, including one church member who had gone home from church with her grandchildren, then thought better of it and drove back to the church basement.
 
In the end, there wasn’t time to register everybody – church members had to just throw open the doors and get everyone inside. One tornado dropped, then another as more than 80 people huddled there and the Sowells laid on the floor of their home.
 
“I had no idea at that point that so many people were gathered at the church,” he said.
 

Photo by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist
A set of stairs and foundation is all that is left of this house hit by one of the March 3 tornados in Lee County, Ala.

 
But minutes later as the air cleared and the phone calls came, he found that out – and a lot of other information. People had died, and first responders – including Sowell’s son — were searching for the missing.
 
The church member who had turned around and gone back to the church – her house was totally gone.
 
“We know of several like that who went home after the storm and their properties were totally destroyed, so we feel like lives were saved that day,” the pastor said.
 
Sowell was one of them – homes all around his were destroyed too. He sees every day since March 3 as a “bonus day,” one he might never have had if things had been slightly different.
 
He’s reminded of that each day as he drives by the 23 white wooden crosses on the lawn of Providence Baptist, with notes written on them to memorialize loved ones lost in the community.
 
“We realize our humanity and that life can change on a dime. It has,” Sowell said. “I’ve seen grown men cry – me included.”
 
A couple of weeks ago, as more thunderclouds rolled in and rain splashed the 23 wooden crosses on the lawn, people came flooding to the church’s basement again, begging to get in.
 
The trauma is “still so fresh,” Sowell said. “Time is a great healer, but it doesn’t come fast enough.”
 
But where time has been slow, he said God has been right on time – to the point that church members are still shaking their head in disbelief.
 
Back in 1995 when Hurricane Opal’s path traced across Lee County, the church was “dead in the water” for a few days, Sowell said. They didn’t have power, and they didn’t have any resources to do ministry in the community.
 

Photo by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist
David Dismukes, a member of Providence Baptist Church, points out the lone brick wall still standing at a house hit by one of the March 3 tornados. A family was huddled behind the wall praying when the storm hit. All survived.

So in the years after, when they built the church’s west campus on the other side of the road, they built the building with disaster in mind. Though it’s big enough to house worship services, it’s got other intentional features as well – like massive shower and restroom facilities, a large commercial kitchen and a huge diesel generator.
 
And now, 24 years after Opal, Sowell said the church is confident God saw this coming.
 
“There was a moment a day or two into the tornados that as clothes were stacked head high and the room was filled with supplies, toiletries and water that we looked around and said, ‘You know, this is what this building was built for,’” he said. “We began to look back and see the hand of God every step of the way. It’s just humbling.”
 
And God provided the team too, Sowell said. One church member ran a trucking company and knew how to get things they needed, plus how to organize shipments as they were coming in from generous donors across the country. Another church member had experience running a commercial cafeteria. Still another was Toni Long, the Tuskegee-Lee Baptist Association disaster relief coordinator who was able to organize cleanup efforts after the storms.
 
“We had key people in our church that God brought through the years,” Sowell said.
 
Another was David Dismukes, whose father Robert was pastor of Providence Baptist until he died in 1984. Dismukes grew up in the community, served in public affairs in the Army and recently retired back to the area.
 
“He knew how to handle all the media and logistics,” Sowell said.
 
As Dismukes drives around the area these days, people know his truck. He’s personally visited with the families of every victim. As he goes down the list of crosses, he can tell their stories.
 
The first, Marshall Grimes, was a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association.
 
“I went back and found him on Facebook, and after the first tornado rolled through, he posted on his wall that he had made it through just fine,” Dismukes said. The second tornado took his life.
 
Another victim, a small child, was missing the night of the tornado, and Dismukes was called to join a search party. Before he was able to get out the door, he got the call that they had found the child, who hadn’t survived.
 
“Seeing them carry in the body bags, especially the small ones, is the worst part,” said Dismukes, who, along with Sowell – also a longtime volunteer firefighter and hospital chaplain – worked at the first responders’ staging area the night of the storms.
 
As a chaplain, Sowell said, “When we’re called in, it’s trauma; it’s tragedy. But this one has been harder than all of them.”
 
It’s been a tough struggle, he said, but the church is learning to praise God in the valley and lean into their faith.
 
“A lot of people are still walking around shell-shocked, thinking they might wake up and it might be a bad dream,” Sowell said. “But it’s not. It’s been a real dark moment, but there have been glimmers of light all the way through this.
 
“God has taken care of us and we’ve tried to do our best to take care of everyone, and I think that’s been a witness to the community of hope and love.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist.)

4/4/2019 12:59:04 PM by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments



Vote on abortion survivor bill pushed by House GOP

April 4 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives initiated April 2 their latest effort to gain a floor vote on legislation to require health care for a baby born alive during an abortion.
 

Photo from Rep. Ann Wagner on Twitter
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., sponsor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, speaks April 2 at a Capitol Hill news conference before a discharge petition was filed the same day to bring her bill up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., filed a discharge petition for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, H.R. 962, in an attempt to bring the bill to the floor over Democratic resistance. More than two dozen previous efforts using a different procedure have failed. Since Feb. 6, various GOP members have sought unanimous consent for consideration of such a proposal on 25 occasions, but the presiding officer from the Democratic majority has declined the request each time.
 
Success appears highly unlikely for the discharge effort. To succeed, a discharge petition requires a House majority – 218 signatures – to bring the bill out of committee to the floor. Republicans have 197 members in the House, and no more than three Democrats typically vote for pro-life legislation.
 
Scalise acknowledged the difficulty in an April 2 news conference before filing the petition.
 
“Frankly, it should be easy to get all 435 members of Congress to sign this, but it’s not. In fact, it’s going to be hard,” he said. “We know it’s an uphill battle, but we don’t come here to do the easy things. We come here because it’s hard, and we’re here to do the most difficult and toughest things, and, most importantly, to stand up for the most vulnerable among us.”
 
The petition had already received 193 signatures by early evening April 2, the bill’s sponsor – Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo. – said on Twitter. That is “the most signatures a discharge petition has received in a single day in over 2 decades,” she tweeted.
 
Democratic opposition to the legislation in both the House and Senate has made members of the party vulnerable to understandable charges of supporting infanticide. The bill not only says a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion is a “legal person” deserving protection, but it mandates that a health care provider give the same degree of care offered “any other baby born alive at the same gestational age.”
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore told Baptist Press, “The unwillingness of some elected officials to vote on whether it should be legal to leave a crying baby to die on the table is as morally reprehensible as it is politically shameful.
 
“A child’s intrinsic dignity is given by God not the circumstance of their birth,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in written comments. “Americans deserve to know where their elected officials stand on infanticide, and I am thankful that nearly 200 members of Congress signed the petition to bring the Born-Alive Act to the House floor for a vote.”
 
Attempts to gain passage of a companion bill in the Senate also have failed.
 
On Feb. 25, senators voted 53-44 to bring the measure to the floor for a vote on final passage, but the effort failed to reach the 60 votes needed to succeed in the procedural move known as invoking cloture. The vote came three weeks after a Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, blocked an effort by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to gain unanimous consent from the Senate for his bill.
 
Abortion-rights advocate decried the Republican discharge attempt.
 
Jacqueline Ayers, a vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called it “another out of touch attack on women’s health and rights – based on dangerous lies. Republican leadership is shaming women and criminalizing doctors for a practice that doesn’t exist in reality.”
 
Reports of permitting children who survive abortions to die without care, however, date back at least 20 years, when nurses reported that a method known as live-birth abortion was being used in at least one hospital in Chicago. The practice resulted in surviving babies being left unattended to die.
 
Although the legislation existed in the previous congressional session, it gained new attention this year after events in New York and Virginia. New York enacted a law in January that legalizes abortion until birth and, according to pro-life analysis, removes protections for babies who survive abortion. Shortly thereafter, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam expressed support for allowing abortion-surviving infants to die.
 
Northam’s controversial remarks came in a Jan. 30 radio interview in which he was asked about a fellow Democrat’s bill in the Virginia House of Delegates that would have legalized abortion until birth. Northam said of the proposal, “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
 
The Virginia-ignited uproar came a week after New York enacted a law that legalizes abortion until birth for the mother’s “health” – which is not defined and has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to include essentially any reason – and as other states seek to wipe out limitations on the procedure. At least in part, the effort is based on the concern expressed by abortion rights advocates that two Supreme Court justices nominated by President Trump will help overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion that legalized abortion.
 
Unlike the new bill, Democrats did not block similar legislation that gained approval in 2002. The Senate passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act by unanimous consent, and the House of Representatives approved it by voice vote. The measure, signed into law by President George W. Bush, clarified that a newborn child – “at any stage of development” and fully outside the womb – is a person to be protected under federal law.
 
The 2002 law does not adequately protect children who survive an abortion, supporters of the new proposal contend. The new legislation makes specific requirements of health care providers and calls for penalties not in the 2002 measure.
 
Under the new proposal, an infant who survives an abortion must be admitted to a hospital after initial treatment. A violation of the measure could result in a fine and/or a prison sentence of as many as five years.

4/4/2019 12:55:01 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Floyd to champion Great Commission to ‘exhaustion’

April 3 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Great Commission, the Cooperative Program, supporting pastors and listening to Southern Baptists will be among the early emphases of Ronnie Floyd’s presidency at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC), he said during a press conference and a Facebook Live session April 2.
 

Photo by Adam Covington
Ronnie Floyd, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, fields a question during a press conference posed by Ken Camp of the Baptist Standard in Texas.

“Our missional vision as Southern Baptists is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations,” Floyd said following his election by the EC in Dallas. “It will be to that end, that end of reaching the world that I will give my life ... in this next season – 100 percent, from before daylight until exhaustion, until Jesus comes or until He calls me home.”
 
In his Facebook Live session, Floyd also emphasized his support for SBC President J.D. Greear’s efforts to combat sexual abuse in churches. Southern Baptists must “do everything we can” to help victims and resource churches to prevent abuse, he said.
 
Southern Baptists seem poised to unite at the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., and make “as declarative a statement as we can make to our culture about what we believe about this issue” of sexual abuse, Floyd said.
 
During his press conference, Floyd underscored repeatedly, in response to questions on a range of topics, his focus on the Great Commission – Jesus’ call in Matthew 28:19-20 and other scriptures to make disciples of all nations. For the SBC, he said, the Great Commission is linked with the Cooperative Program (CP), Southern Baptists’ unified channel of funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.
 

Photo by Adam Covington
Ronnie Floyd, in a press conference after his election April 2 as president of the SBC Executive Committee, sets forth his vision in helping to lead Southern Baptists’ national and international missions and ministries.

“I will say again and again that our work together as Baptists to take the gospel to the ends of the earth is dependent ultimately on our ability to prioritize and accelerate our giving through the Cooperative Program,” Floyd said, as well as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
 
Championing evangelism and missions in his new EC role, Floyd said, is in keeping with the recommendations of the SBC’s Great Commission Task Force (GCTF), which Floyd chaired in 2009-2010. The task force presented a series of recommendations affirmed by messengers in 2010 and aimed at increasing the convention’s evangelistic effectiveness. The GCTF recommendations led to EC recommendations approved by SBC messengers in 2011.
 
Local churches, Baptist associations, state conventions and the SBC all have sought to implement the GCTF’s recommendations, Floyd said. He commended state conventions for increasing their CP giving to SBC causes by more than 4 percentage points collectively since 2009-2010.
 
As Southern Baptists advance the Great Commission among people of all ethnicities, Floyd said, the SBC should seek to be known as “the greatest multigenerational, multiethnic and multilingual denomination in the United States of America.”
 
Floyd will carry out his work at the EC with a pastor’s mindset and a love for local churches, he said, drawing from his 42 years of pastoral experience.
 
“I will think like a pastor,” Floyd said. “I will champion pastors. I believe in the church, and I will champion the church” as “the body God has anointed” to accomplish the Great Commission.
 
Among the ways he will support pastors and churches is by listening to them. Floyd noted his intent to listen and learn in the early days of his presidency in response to questions about the role of Baptist Press, a social justice emphasis among some Southern Baptists and Floyd’s participation in a group of evangelicals that has advised President Trump informally.

Regarding Trump, Floyd said he has only been to the Oval Office once and would gladly relay evangelicals’ concerns to any president of either party, as past EC chief executives have done.
 
Only 70 days remain until the 2019 SBC annual meeting, Floyd said. He invited Southern Baptists to “join us in this grand task” in Birmingham and, in the meantime, to “undergird this gathering with prayer like never before.”
 
Floyd’s Facebook Live message is available at facebook.com/BaptistPress/videos/2378018709094510/.

4/3/2019 10:21:37 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The Apostles’ Creed: ‘Christians have died for this’

April 3 2019 by SBTS Communications

Among all the statements and confessions in the history of the church, the Apostles’ Creed stands above them all, R. Albert Mohler Jr. writes in a new book seeking to rekindle a love for the creed nearly 2,000 years after its writing.
 
Recited in churches of all traditions and varieties across the world – and in every commencement ceremony at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the Apostles’ Creed has long been considered the basic teaching of Christianity.
 

It is much more than a historical document but a deeply compelling and transformative link between Christians old and new, Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes in The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits, released by Thomas Nelson publishers.
 
As the oldest creed in Christianity, the Apostles’ Creed represents the church’s earliest attempt to summarize the Christian faith expressed across the whole counsel of God, Mohler said in an interview. It was not just an abstract statement of faith, however – it was often the final recitation of Christian martyrs in the earliest days of the church.
 
“There is something incredibly reassuring and comforting – courage-providing and heart-molding – about confessing the Christian faith as Christians have confessed it for two millennia,” Mohler said. “Christians have died for this. Every one of these words has been hammered out in biblical reflection, serious theological study, and the worship of Christ’s people throughout the centuries.”
 
The book is the third installment in Mohler’s series of works about three central expressions in Christian faith and practice: The Ten Commandments – 2009’s Words from the Fire; The Lord’s Prayer – 2018’s The Prayer that Turns the World Upside-Down; and now the Apostles’ Creed. These have long been three legs of a stool in Christian teaching, he said, and have commanded the attention of the greatest theologians throughout church history.
 
“Every generation of the Christian faith has to be absolutely certain that we are not saying something new, that we are not inventing, developing, evolving, negotiating a new gospel – a new theological structure,” Mohler said. “[The apostle] Paul told Timothy that one of his main responsibilities was to maintain the pattern of sound words. Now, the most important way we do that is by latching ourselves to the Word of God. In so doing, we have to summarize what the Bible teaches.”
 
Despite the creed’s central role in church history, some Christians have claimed “no creed but the Bible” as their battle cry. But that apparently noble statement, Mohler pointed out, often came from liberal theologians who denied essential truths of scripture. Even those with a genuine, good-faith aversion to creeds, he said, will eventually need to summarize Christian teaching when explaining the gospel. Essentially, they will write a creed of their own anyway.
 
“Where there is an aversion to creeds, it’s almost always rooted in the fear that some creed is going to replace the authority of scripture,” Mohler said. “But even those who would, on that basis, reject a creed have to turn around and create one of their own simply to summarize what the gospel is, who Christ is, what the Bible teaches.
 
“I think there is a lot of danger in devising one of our own,” Mohler added, “and there’s a great deal of security in using the word the Christian church has used throughout the centuries, wherever it has been found.”
 
The Apostles’ Creed is not just a faithful explanation of what Christians believe, Mohler said – it can also be the basis for true Christian unity.
 
While the ecumenical movements of the 20th century sought an artificial unity built on doctrinal minimalism, the Apostles’ Creed can foster genuine unity around the core, fundamental truths of the faith, he said, noting that each denomination will have unique beliefs that extend beyond the Apostles’ Creed, but agreement about the creed itself is what defines all genuine Christians everywhere.
 
“All Christians believe more than the Apostles’ Creed, but no Christian believes less,” Mohler said. “If you find some church, denomination or institution that doesn’t believe every word of the Apostles’ Creed without equivocation, then you’re not looking at a Christian church, denomination or institution.”
 
For more information about the book, including a podcast and a series of video interviews, click here.

4/3/2019 10:18:43 AM by SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



CP vital for missions & future leaders, pastor says

April 3 2019 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Four years after Microsoft moved in 1986 to a scenic site on Lake Washington in Redmond, Wash., from nearby Bellevue, Scott Brewer relocated from a Kentucky pastorate to start Meadowbrook Church.
 
He did so specifically because he understood Microsoft would grow, adding more residents to the east Seattle suburb.
 

Photo submitted
The Seattle-area Meadowbrook Church in Redmond has baptized more than 50 people in the last 10 years, sometimes in Lake Washington, in a challenging area where Microsoft is headquartered and where others weathering life’s difficulties find temporary housing.

“We wanted to be where the people would be moving in,” Brewer told Baptist Press.
 
That same strategic thinking has led to Meadowbrook Church expanding its ministry effectiveness over the last 30 years, and to increasing its giving to missions through the Cooperative Program (CP) to 10 percent of undesignated offerings. CP is the way Southern Baptist churches work together in state, national and international missions and ministries.
 
Meadowbrook has started six church plants in the Puget Sound region over the years because “new church plants are one of the most effective means of reaching non-believers for Jesus,” Brewer said.
 
Part of his interest in allocating mission dollars through the Cooperative Program is because CP pays for part of the seminary education for those preparing for the pastorate and other vocational ministries.
 
“When we consider how we can use our mission dollars most effectively and efficiently, the fact we have two mission boards strategically carrying out the Great Commission, we want to partner with that,” Brewer said. “And we want to partner with training the next generation of pastors and missionaries who will be leading in those efforts.”
 

Photo submitted
Scott Brewer started the Seattle-area Meadowbrook Church on Easter in 1990. This is the church in its worship center on Easter 2017.

In addition to its mission dollars through the Cooperative Program, Meadowbrook seeks to be a good neighbor in Redmond and a “safe place” for those who attend. And it focuses on discipling its members; providing classes in ESL, English as a Second Language; and partnering with two transitional housing nonprofits.
 
As a good neighbor: Meadowbrook shares its 10,000-square-foot space in a renovated warehouse with community groups and gathering that otherwise would have to pay the area’s exorbitant rental rates. This includes a community choir, weddings, recitals and more, all for the cost of utilities and cleanup.
 
“We wanted to be a bridge to the community,” Brewer said. “People marvel we do it at cost.”
 
While initially a safe place for people to ask questions about religion, Meadowbrook also has become a place for people of diverse ethnic backgrounds as well as for “people who come with brokenness,” the pastor said.
 
Discipling, meanwhile, takes place in one of eight small groups scattered around the city of about 65,000 people. The groups provide accountability, Christian growth and ways members can reach out in the community and the world with the love of Jesus.
 

Photo submitted
Digging fence posts as part of a community development project in Nicaragua is among the ways Meadowbrook members have worked to share the gospel while on its many mission trips.

“We are trying to make Christ-followers who are world Christians, someone who comprehends how God is at work in the world and partners with Him in that,” Brewer said. “In a very real sense, God has brought the world to us.”
 
An ESL ministry was one of Meadowbrook’s first ministries.
 
“Redmond has become incredibly diverse,” Brewer said. “When we moved here it was 94 percent white, and today it’s 41 percent foreign-born.
 
 “Every year we’ll have a different 12 to 15 students,” the pastor continued. “In any given year you might have more Hispanics than Russian or more Russian than Asian.
 
“It’s a way for us to help the outsider to find a way to navigate their new world,” Brewer said. “They don’t know the language, the culture. They don’t know how to buy groceries.”
 
Another Meadowbrook ministry is to people who live in the Avondale Park government housing complex. The church provides monthly dinners, movie nights or parties, “just trying to bless those in a transitional state,” Brewer said.
 
As relationships are built, “then we find they have ‘family of origin’ issues, dysfunction that is being passed on to the next generations,” the pastor said. “We want to help people transition into a whole new life, not just a new living situation. When you grow up with poor models and dysfunctional experiences, it continues until something intervenes and breaks that cycle.”
 
The local YWCA has 20 units of transitional housing in its Family Village, where families can stay up to 18 months. Meadowbrook provides new items each time a unit is vacated. Other local ministries by Meadowbrook’s small groups might involve serving dinner at a local youth homeless shelter, breakfast or lunch for teachers at area schools, and dinners for firefighters.
 

Scott Brewer

“All the things we do, we try to not just do a drop off but to be with them and engage them,” Brewer said. “We want to build relationships and friendships and in the course of that friendship introduce them to Jesus.”
 
In addition to the $31,250 Meadowbrook gathered in 2018 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the church has regular contact with missionaries in South Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East.
 
“We’re making an increased effort to make disciples who have a heart to make disciples,” Brewer said. “We see this as a global mandate as well as a local mandate. We have strategic partnerships in some of the most unreached parts of the world and right here in Puget Sound. We want to have a foot in both of those worlds.”
 
Brewer leads the newly-reworked local Baptist association’s pastor care team and is part of the Washington church planting assessment team. Worship pastor Jerry Chambers, on Meadowbrook’s staff since 1993, is part of the state convention’s team that trains worship leaders for new church plants.
 
Over his 30-year ministry at Meadowbrook, “I’ve learned the value of sowing and not just reaping,” Brewer said. “In the early years I had such a focus on harvest, but I did not value all the work that precedes that – sowing and cultivating – and this is a hard-soil area. It takes a lot to break the soil, and then a lot of watering and caring to move toward a harvest.”

4/3/2019 10:12:56 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



National CP 3.85% over mid-year budget projection

April 3 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

Contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in March were 3.85 percent above the projected budget at the mid-point of the current fiscal year and 0.03 percent above the amount received during the same period last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee Interim President and Executive Vice President D. August Boto.
 

BP file photo
The reach of the Cooperative Program extends to kids in Puerto Rico being reached by North American Mission Board missionary Jorge Santiago during a Vacation Bible School. CP, along with the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, support more than 5,000 missionaries and students in various ministry categories across North America.

As of March 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget totaled $100,736,376.81, or $29,550.18 above the $100,706,826.63 received through the first six months of the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
 
The March YTD total is $3,736,376.81 above the $97,000,000 YTD allocation budget projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
 
The CP is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
 
Meanwhile, year-to-date designated giving of $116,028,001.86 was 1.55 percent, or $1,827,949.33, below gifts of $117,855,951.19 received in the first six months of last year’s fiscal year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief and other special gifts.
 
CP allocation receipts for SBC work for the month of March totaled $15,066,586.47. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $25,684,181.99.
 
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist Convention national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
 
The convention-adopted budget for 2018-2019 is $194 million and is distributed as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The SBC Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the SBC ministry entities.
 
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
 
CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.

4/3/2019 10:08:03 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments



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