August 2018

Army chaplain Squires cleared of all charges

August 27 2018 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

The U.S. Army has dropped its investigation against Southern Baptist chaplain Jerry Scott Squires, fully exonerating the major of all charges Aug. 24.

NAMB Photo
The U.S. Army announced Aug. 24 that the charges against Southern Baptist Chaplain (Maj.) Jerry Scott Squires, center, had been dropped. An Army investigator had recommended disciplinary action after Squires told a lesbian soldier that he could not perform a marriage retreat if she and her same-sex partner attended. In this photo, North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell, left, and Douglas Carver, executive director of chaplaincy at NAMB, visit with Squires in June at the Southern Baptist Convention 2018 Annual Meeting in Dallas.

Squires, who had been charged with discrimination against a lesbian soldier who wanted to attend a marriage retreat, handled the situation in accordance with military policy and followed the guidelines of his denominational authority, the Army said.
“This is great news for both Chaplain Squires and all of the military chaplains who are serving our men and women the U.S. Armed Services,” said Gen. Douglas Carver, executive director of chaplaincy at the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “It is a significant victory for all who support and defend the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, especially regarding the freedom of religion.”
Squires had been charged with unlawful discrimination and dereliction of duty, and could have faced confinement in a military prison.
Carver thanked Squires’ commanding general “for having the moral courage to make the correct but difficult decision regarding the investigation into Chaplain Squires.”
In early 2018, Squires told a soldier that he could not perform a marriage retreat for the soldier and the soldier’s same-sex partner, and Squires provided an alternative by rescheduling the event so that another chaplain could conduct the retreat.
An Army investigating officer initially determined that Squires had discriminated against the soldier and recommended that Squires face disciplinary action.
Mike Berry, the attorney from First Liberty Institute representing Squires, argued that Squires’ actions adhered to Army protocol by taking the appropriate steps to provide the service that Squires could not personally oversee or attend per the policy of his endorser.
The Army today agreed that Squires followed the correct procedure.
Throughout the process, Squires continued to fulfill his duties as an Army chaplain; but with the investigation dismissed, he no longer has to worry about the prospect of facing disciplinary action.
“Few chaplains have endured the investigative scrutiny that Chaplain Squires suffered over the last seven months,” Carver said. “We applaud Chaplain Squires and all chaplains like him who remain dedicated to their faith while seeking to respect all persons within the diverse military community.”
NAMB, the entity that endorsed Squires, augmented its ministry guidelines for chaplains in 2013 after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage only in terms of opposite sex unions. Southern Baptist chaplains are expected to respectfully serve within the pluralistic culture of the military with grace and charity, obeying such biblical commands as Romans 12:18 to, if at all possible, “live at peace with everyone.”
“From the moment the investigation began,” Carver said, “Southern Baptists have stood behind chaplain Squires with their prayerful support, wise counsel, and encouraging words. Our partners in the gospel from other denominations faithfully stood with us as well. We are here to ensure that our chaplains can exercise their religious freedom and model the tenets of our faith as Southern Baptists in an uncompromising and Christ-honoring manner.”
More than 1,600 Southern Baptist chaplains serve the U.S. military. NAMB endorses those chaplains on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Related Story:
Case against Army chaplain called ‘anti-religious’
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/27/2018 10:29:54 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Political divides in church focus of new study

August 27 2018 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

America has become increasingly divided by politics in recent years. So have its Protestant churches, according to a study released Aug. 23.

More than half (57 percent) of Protestant churchgoers under 50 say they prefer to go to church with people who share their political views. And few adult Protestant churchgoers say they attend services with people of a different political persuasion.
Those are among the findings in a new report on churchgoing and politics, conducted Aug. 22–30, 2017, by LifeWay Research.
“Like many places in America, churches are divided by politics,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “And churchgoers under 50 seem to want it that way.”

Political divide

For the study, LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend services at least once a month at a Protestant or nondenominational church.
Forty-six percent agree with the statement, “I prefer to attend a church where people share my political views.” Forty-two percent disagree. Twelve percent are not sure.
More than half (57 percent) of churchgoers ages 18 to 49 agree. Fewer churchgoers ages 50 to 64 (39 percent) or ages 65 and over (33 percent) agree. Men (51 percent) are more likely to agree than women (43 percent).
Methodist (57 percent), nondenominational (51 percent) and Baptist (49 percent) churchgoers are more likely to agree than churchgoers from other denominations. Lutherans (33 percent) are less likely to agree.
“Only a third of churchgoers in the study had strong feelings on this subject,” McConnell said. Twelve percent strongly agree, while 22 percent strongly disagree.
“Politics doesn’t seem to be a high priority for most Protestants when choosing a church to attend,” he said. “But for a small group of churchgoers, it’s really crucial.”
LifeWay Research also asked Protestant churchgoers if their political views match those of people in their church. Half agree (51 percent), while 19 percent disagree and 30 percent are uncertain.
Churchgoers ages 35 to 49 (61 percent) are more likely to agree than those ages 50 to 64 (47 percent) or those 65 and older (44 percent). Men (58 percent) are more likely to agree than women (46 percent). Those who attend services at least once a week (52 percent) are more likely to agree than those who attend once or twice a month (43 percent).
American churchgoers who hold evangelical beliefs (57 percent) are more likely to agree their political views match others in their church, compared to those who don’t hold evangelical beliefs (44 percent). Baptist (58 percent), nondenominational (54 percent) and Assemblies of God/Pentecostal (53 percent) churchgoers are more likely to agree. Lutherans (31 percent) are less likely.

Protestant churchgoers and other Americans who attend worship services at least once a month made up about half of voters (52 percent) in the 2016 presidential election, according to data from Pew Research.
Churchgoers might stick around even if they disagree over politics.
A previous LifeWay Research study of Protestant and nondenominational churchgoers found only 1 in 10 (9 percent) would consider leaving their church over political views.
“More than a few churchgoers in the most recent study (30 percent) don’t know the political views of people besides them in the pews,” McConnell said. 
“Politics isn’t the only thing that churchgoers care about,” he said. “In some churches, politics isn’t mentioned at all – at least in the pews.”



LifeWay Research conducted the study Aug. 22–30, 2017. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
For this survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. Protestant and nondenominational adults (18 and older) which attends religious services once a month or more often was selected from the KnowledgePanel. Sample stratification and base weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, home ownership, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. Study-specific weights included for gender by age, race/ethnicity, region and education to reflect GSS 2016 data. The completed sample is 1,010 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is an evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer at Facts & Trends,, of LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/27/2018 10:29:14 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Will Graham hopes ‘Unbroken’ sequel changes lives

August 27 2018 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

Will Graham can do a great impersonation of his late grandfather Billy Graham. But for his role in the upcoming film “Unbroken: Path to Redemption,” he was given strict orders: don’t do an impression.

Will Graham can do a great impersonation of his late grandfather Billy Graham. But for his role in the upcoming film "Unbroken: Path to Redemption," he was given strict orders: don't do an impression.

“The director said: Don’t imitate your grandfather,” Graham told Baptist Press. “... My grandfather back then preached extremely fast. But the director said, ‘Don’t preach fast. Preach slow and be yourself.’”
The movie, scheduled to hit theaters Sept. 14, follows the story of Olympian and World War II prisoner Louis Zamperini, who returned home a hero but nearly saw his life and marriage ruined due to PTSD, thoughts of revenge against his captors, and dependency on alcohol. A visit to the 1949 Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles changed his life forever. He accepted Christ and later became an evangelist and founded Victory Boys Camp, an outreach for at-risk youth.
The PG-13 film is a follow-up to the 2014 movie “Unbroken,” which focused on Zamperini’s war heroics. The new movie stars Samuel Hunt (“Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.”) as Zamperini and Merritt Patterson (“The Royals”) as his wife Cynthia. Graham plays Billy Graham.
Matthew Baer, who produced both movies, said he was “blown away” by how similar the cadence of Billy Graham’s voice and Will Graham’s voice is. The younger Graham, though, said any similarities weren’t intentional.   
“He and I, we sound alike, but he says a few words different than I would,” said Graham, a vice president and associate evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association who earned his master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and his bachelor’s degree from Liberty University. “What you’re seeing there is actually not [a] Billy Graham [impersonation]. That’s just me.”

One of the ‘greatest stories’ of forgiveness

Will Graham grew up hearing about Zamperini’s conversion at the crusade, but it wasn’t until he read the bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand about Zamperini’s life that he fully appreciated the story’s depth.

“It’s one of the greatest stories of forgiveness outside of the Bible,” Graham said. “... Louis received forgiveness, his life was restored, his marriage was restored, his nightmares went away, his drinking went away.”
But, just as significantly, Graham added, is that Zamperini then extended forgiveness to others.
“Louis said he didn’t know if what God did in his life was just a fad or if it really changed him,” Graham said. “And he said he wouldn’t know that until he went back to Tokyo to meet his former captors.”
“Unbroken: Path to Redemption” recreates that key moment in Zamperini’s life when he came face to face with the Japanese men who had tortured him – the men who had hit and whipped Zamperini and the other prisoners regularly.
Hillenbrand’s book says Zamperini and the other prisoners were beaten for folding their arms, for cleaning their teeth, for talking in their sleep and for not understanding orders. One “favorite punishment” according to the book, was to force prisoners to do the “Ofuna crouch,” which involved standing for hours with knees “bent halfway and arms overhead.” Prisoners who stopped or who fell were clubbed and kicked. The beatings are recreated in the 2014 film “Unbroken.”
Japanese corporal Mutsuhiro Watanabe – nicknamed “the Bird” – singled out Zamperini for his Olympic fame and took a personal satisfaction in torturing him. The Bird beat the prisoners daily, “fracturing their windpipes, rupturing their eardrums, shattering their teeth, tearing one man’s ear half off [and] leaving men unconscious,” according to Hillenbrand’s book.
Zamperini was a prisoner of war for two years.
“[Zamperini] hated these men – he hated them,” Graham said, referencing Zamperini’s time without Christ. “But when he stood before them [after the war], he said his heart melted in love for them. He said he no longer hated them. And he said, right then he knew what God had done in his life was real. And because of that, he was able to forgive them.... He [formerly] wanted to kill these people and now he wanted to love on them and tell them about Christ and how Christ can change your life.”
The Bird, though, never agreed to meet him, so Zamperini mailed him a letter.

A turning point for Billy Graham, too

The 1949 crusade also was a life-changing event for Billy Graham. Prior to the Los Angeles event, few people in the United States had heard of the evangelist, who was only 30 and was serving as president of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis. Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst made a decision that would change history by sending a note to editors to “puff” Graham.
“In other words, go write nice things about Billy Graham,” Will Graham told BP, explaining Hearst’s note. “And so the next day, my granddaddy showed up and there was like 100 reporters. He’s like, ‘I couldn’t get one’ and now he’s got like 100 of them. He says: What happened? Why are you guys all here? And one of the guys replied to my granddaddy and said: You’ve been kissed by William Randolph Hearst.”
Hearst died two years later and never met Billy Graham. The evangelist never knew why Hearst liked him so much. Nevertheless, it was a “watershed moment,” Billy Graham would say. 
“The 1949 crusade is what made Billy Graham famous,” Will Graham said. 
“Unbroken: Path to Redemption” shows the famous tent that housed the crusade, which originally was scheduled for three weeks and was extended to eight weeks. More than 350,000 people attended. One of those was Zamperini, who was invited by his wife.

There’s a ‘Lot more Louis Zamperinis out there’

Will Graham said he hopes the movie impacts moviegoers in a similar way the crusade affected Zamperini.
“My first and primary reason for doing this is that people would give their life over to Jesus Christ,” Graham said. “There’s going to be a lot more Louis Zamperinis out there. They’re struggling in their marriage. Their marriage is broken, their life’s falling apart. They’re addicted, trying to drown their sorrows away with drugs or alcohol and they don’t know what to do. I want them to be like Louis.
“... This is a great love story,” he added. “It’s a great story of survival and turning one’s life around, but ultimately it’s about Jesus Christ changing a couple, a husband and a wife. I hope people see the real story behind it where they’re the Louis and they can give their life to Christ, too.”
“Unbroken: Path to Redemption” is rated PG-13 for thematic content and related disturbing images. It contains no coarse language or sexuality.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is a writer in Albany, Ill. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/27/2018 10:28:33 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SWBTS announces presidential search team

August 24 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's (SWBTS) board of trustees released the list of names on its presidential search team Aug. 24. The 9-member committee will seek a replacement for former president Paige Patterson who was terminated in May.

The seminary, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is currently under the leadership of interim president Jeffrey Bingham, who previously served as dean of the SWBTS School of Theology since 2016.
SWBTS identified search team members in an announcement on the school’s website :

  • Danny Roberts, committee chairman, At-Large, Texas

  • Denise B. Ewing, Ill.

  • Jamie R. Green, At-Large, Texas

  • Guy G. Grimes, Calif.

  • N. Todd Houston, N.C.

  • Thomas R. (Tom) James, Ky.

  • Philip Levant, At-Large, Texas

  • Andre M. Palmer, N.Y.

  • Calvin R. Wittman, Colo.

Trustee chair Kevin Ueckert, At-Large, Texas, and vice-chair Cornelious C. (Connie) Hancock, Ohio, will serve on the committee ex officio.
Ueckert said the team will focus on developing a candidate profile and application process before the board’s October meeting. He also said trustees would enter a time of “focused prayer.”
Nominations and “expressions of interest” may be submitted via email at

Houston, senior pastor of Beach Road Baptist Church in Southport, N.C., told the Biblical Recorder he is grateful for the opportunity to serve both as a trustee and a search committee member. He expressed confidence in the committee as an “excellent team to lead us through this critically important search process.”
“I know our Board of Trustees and the entire Southwestern family are eternally grateful for the many prayers from our brothers and sisters in Christ, both within and beyond our convention,” Houston said. “I pray those prayers not only continue, but intensify as we begin this search process. We have one agenda: to find the man God has chosen to lead SWBTS for many years to come. My prayer for both our Search Committee, and for our entire Trustee Board, is to hear from God as the Prophet Samuel heard from God when He said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one’ (1 Samuel 16).”

Controversy engulfed Patterson in early 2018 when audio and video files were posted online that included past advice he gave to a woman about domestic violence and comments about a teenage girl’s physical attractiveness in a sermon.
Trustees initially decided to move Patterson into an honorary role as president emeritus, which included compensation and a lifetime housing arrangement on campus, but days later the board’s executive committee removed him from leadership at the seminary entirely, citing new information about his mishandling of two sexual assault allegations.
A committee member also said publicly at the Southern Baptist Convention's 2018 annual meeting that Patterson acted inappropriately in response to the board’s investigation of the school’s financial condition.
Patterson was president of SWBTS from 2003-2018. He had previously served as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Criswell College in Dallas, Texas.

8/24/2018 1:07:16 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments

Harvey anniversary to be marked by prayer

August 24 2018 by Southern Baptist TEXAN Staff

One year later, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Executive Director Jim Richards and other SBTC leaders plan to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey with prayer and fellowship gatherings scheduled for Aug. 25-27.

File photo by Jane Rodgers
Volunteers Tammy Hutchinson and Evelyn Rojas unpacked goods at the Austin-area First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, where a Baptist disaster relief kitchen prepared meals for Hurricane Harvey evacuees housed in the city’s mega-shelter.

Hurricane Harvey devastated the southeast coast of Texas and portions of Louisiana, dumping as much as 60 inches of rain in less than a week. Damage was estimated at more than $125 billion and one million cars were flooded beyond repair. Within days, Southern Baptist volunteers began mobilizing to meet the physical and spiritual needs of residents overwhelmed by flooding and wind.
The churches where special anniversary events will be held include Coastal Oaks Church in Rockport, First Baptist Church in Humble and Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont.
Churches impacted by Harvey “have just been through the worst thing in the world. They have nothing else to turn to, but we can give them hope in Jesus,” Frank Bailey, a SBTC Disaster Relief (DR) volunteer from Livingston, said after being deployed last year.
DR chaplains played an essential role in helping residents cope with their losses, going door-to-door through neighborhoods offering spiritual support and direction to resources. SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers distributed 445 Bibles and 526 tracts, presented the gospel 494 times, made 1,667 spiritual contacts and recorded 135 professions of faith.
A coordinated strategy over the past year involved the SBTC Disaster Relief, Texas Relief and Texas Rebuild teams, DR units and other volunteers from 30 state Baptist conventions and the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief crews, ranging in age from 16 to 96.
Armondo Hernandez, 27, a veteran of a mud-out deployment to Nepal two years ago and on his first feeding deployment at Corpus Christi, called it “humbling” to see “older men, most over the age of 70, working not just for free but with intensity, and for no other reason than they feel they have a calling from God to serve.”
He was part of a team from First Baptist Church of Brownsville that set up the church’s water purification trailer and two mass feeding units at Annaville Baptist Church. It was there that volunteers prepared more than 70,000 meals distributed by the Red Cross to Rockport, Port Aransas and other Gulf communities.
Churches affiliated with SBTC and other state Baptist conventions adopted around 75 churches that sustained damage in the storm, helping them recover for future ministry.
First Baptist Church in Waskom, Texas, reached out to the SBTC to explore the Adopt-A-Church program and was matched with First Missionary Baptist Church of Nome, which had been severely damaged by flooding.
Other SBTC churches had helped First Missionary with immediate needs last fall, including Inglewood Baptist in Grand Prairie and Faith Memorial Baptist in Jacksonville. The joint effort over the course of six months made it possible to bring the congregation back to their church building for Easter Sunday. The place was packed.
SBTC received more than $2.8 million from individuals, organizations and Southern Baptist entities, state conventions and churches to fund recovery efforts. Nearly all the funds have been disbursed, providing $2,213,300 for grants to churches and pastors, and another $503,179 to meet other needs.
Trinity Baptist Church of Vidor, Texas, is typical of those receiving grants, having sustained three-and-a-half feet of water throughout its facilities.
“God has blessed us greatly and immensely,” Pastor Marvin Fuller stated after the sanctuary and offices were restored. “We’re progressing, but patience is a virtue and we’ve got a long way to go.”
Trinity Baptist is in the early stage of the SBTC church revitalization program.
Houston Northwest Baptist Church (HNW) experienced extensive flooding with three to five feet of water throughout all of its buildings except for the worship center. The children’s building was damaged so badly that it was demolished. The student building was remodeled to house nursery, special needs and elementary students while teenagers utilized a tent.
“The SBTC grant dollars are greatly appreciated and used for our ministry and rebuilding of our facilities,” noted Alan Bugg, executive pastor. “HNW is currently in the beginning stages of the remodel of the administration building and construction of a new children’s building,” reported earlier this summer.
The grant money also helped the church recoup the cost of the only drive-thru supply center in Houston.
“Families literally drove onto our campus where we had various tents with supplies. They would tell us their need and we would load their vehicles,” Bugg said.
The church got involved in mud-out for hundreds of homes, provided short-term living expenses for many families and sent crews to help in the rebuilding process. More than 1,000 bags of clothes were laundered for flood victims.
Churches of all sizes were blessed by the outpouring of support from across the country through the SBTC. From First Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, to the Cambodian congregation of Metrey Phea Baptist in Houston, funds helped churches purchase supplies to rebuild damaged facilities.
Richards expressed gratitude for the generosity of Southern Baptists.
“Southern Baptist state conventions received funds from their churches to be sent for Harvey Relief,” adding that many state conventions chose to disburse those funds through the SBTC. “We are grateful for our partnership in the gospel with our sister state conventions. They made it possible, along with the generous gifts of others, to help rebuild churches and get pastors back into their homes.”
Disaster relief volunteers from Texas were deployed 8,612 volunteer days and clocked 86,120 volunteer hours. During that time, they served 298,431 meals to first responders and victims of the hurricane. The SBTC operated 762 clean-up and recovery sites, provided care for 22 children, and facilitated 9,600 showers and 6,760 loads of laundry.
Volunteers from 30 state conventions working in the area affected by the hurricane served 2.1 million meals to first responders and evacuees, facilitated 41,000 showers, managed 26,000 loads of laundry and completed 1,942 mud-out work orders. The 529,000 volunteer hours of service by disaster relief teams from across the country is valued at $12.1 million.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline, is the news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/24/2018 11:08:17 AM by Southern Baptist TEXAN Staff | with 0 comments

Ebook ‘Porn and the Pastor’ available now

August 24 2018 by SBTS Communications

A new ebook released Aug. 23 addresses the gravity of pornography addiction among pastors and outlines methods for fighting it. Porn and the Pastor: The Life and Death Consequences of Addiction in Ministry, edited by C. Jeffery Robinson and Garrett Kell, is published jointly by Southern Equip, a resource center for pastors from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and The Gospel Coalition (TGC).

Porn and the Pastor: the Life and Death Consequences of Addiction in Ministry is available as a free download at the Gospel Coalition website.
According to a 2016 study by the Barna Group, 14 percent of pastors admitted the currently struggle with pornography use, and 57 percent said they have struggled with porn in the past. Five percent of pastors reported they were currently addicted to it. The book addresses this widespread problem by first addressing pornography use as a sin problem, then developing strategies for fighting the sin and cultivating accountability.
“As porn use has risen in the church and has infiltrated the lives of church leaders, an entire host of questions have arisen regarding the care for those who have fallen alongside questions as to how best to protect the purity of local churches,” write Robinson and Kell in the introduction. “Like a deadly rattlesnake, porn is not an issue to be trifled with, and it must be confronted intentionally, vigorously, and perennially among the people of God.”
The book features 11 chapters written by an array of evangelical voices curated from Southern Equip and TGC. Kell contributes a headline chapter titled “I was a porn-addicted pastor,” in which he tells his own story as a pastor in his mid-20s in the deep throes of a pornography addiction.
Kell’s story was also featured during a video message at the Together for the Gospel conference in April. After a painful year-long process of confessing his sin to his church, Kell was restored to ministry. He is now the pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., and an associate council member at The Gospel Coalition. In his chapter, Kell uses his story to call other pastors to repentance and renewal in the midst of hidden sin.
“There’s something freeing about the light, even if it makes you wince because you’ve been in the dark for so long,” Kell writes in his chapter. “That year God reached into the darkness of my image-protecting hypocrisy, and pulled me into his liberating light. It was through this deliverance that I learned to trust him in ways that had only been theoretical before.”
Boyce College professor Denny Burk contributed a chapter titled, “Pursue God, not pornography,” in which he challenges pastors to take serious steps to deal with such a serious sin. The process of restoration should begin with repentance – both to God and to another believer. This confession should be just the first step in a long process of accountability, Burk writes.
“If you’ve got areas in your life that you are intentionally keeping in the dark, you’ve not only got to confess your sin, but you’ve got to attach yourself to people who can help keep you accountable,” he writes. “And those people can’t be people who are mired in the same problem you are. They have to be people who have proven faithfulness in this area and can actually pull you forward in constructive ways.
The book features a chapter written by Nikki Daniel, a pastor’s wife who lives in Augusta, Ga., that details how a porn-addicted pastor’s wife views her husband’s sin (“Four revelations about porn from your wife’s perspective”), along with a step-by-step process for pastors to follow when they are struggling with porn use written by Capitol Hill Baptist Church pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry Deepak Reju (“How do I fight this sin?”).
Jared C. Wilson, director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Jonathan Leeman, editorial director at 9Marks, both contribute chapters on what churches should remember as they consider restoring a pastor who is entrenched in pornography use.

8/24/2018 11:08:00 AM by SBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Former slave sees God’s answer to his prayers

August 24 2018 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

The dirt road snaked long and lonely out to Cudjo’s cabin on the outskirts of Mobile as Mary Ellen Caver tried to mentally prepare to meet the former slave.

Submitted photo
Cudjo, a former slave in Alabama, learned that his people in Africa had been introduced to the gospel by Mary Ellen Caver, a former missionary to Nigeria who visited his cabin near Mobile on the eve of the Depression era.

Caver had lived as a single missionary among a tribe in Nigeria before coming home to Alabama. For years, she had been accustomed to the unusual; this time, she had been told it would be a crazy man.
The day before, as Caver had walked out of a church in south Alabama, she had met a group of black men waiting in the parking lot. They knew she had been a missionary to Africa, and they wanted her to put some of their questions to rest.
“There’s a man in our church, and we think he’s crazy,” Caver was told. “He tells all these parables and stories, and he talks in a different language and claims he comes from Africa.”
Caver told the men that even if the man was from Africa, the chances of him speaking the same dialect she had learned in Nigeria were one in a million.
They didn’t listen.
It was the eve of the Depression era when Caver’s car rolled to a stop at Cudjo’s gate. Having returned from the mission field, she had begun traveling around Alabama to lead training sessions for the state Baptist convention’s Sunday School Department. That’s what she was doing the day the men met her outside the church.
“She traveled all over by bus and would have only milkshakes – she was not going to cost the Alabama Baptist Convention a great deal of money,” said Eugenia Brown, who led sessions for the Alabama convention’s Training Union Department at the time and often was at the same events with Caver.
Caver took Alabama Baptists’ missions money seriously – she knew those dollars had sent her to Nigeria and had kept her there.
But she had no idea that her missions work would lead to a divine appointment back in Alabama.
That day at Cudjo’s cabin, Caver opened the gate, and from his porch Cudjo greeted her in his native dialect – the language of the Dahomey people, the tribe she had been sent to in Africa years earlier.
Caver answered Cudjo.
And he erupted with a reply not to her, but to God: “I thank You, Lord – I knowed You would.”

Bound and sold

What Cudjo “knowed” God would do harkened back to when he was a young Dahomey man chained to a long, single-file line of other people headed toward a slave ship years earlier. He had just had his teeth sharpened, a rite of passage for the Dahomy people that he had become a man in the tribe.
But then an enemy tribe captured him, and he was sold and bound for Alabama.

Submitted photo
Mary Ellen Caver, dressed in native African attire when she served as a single missionary to a tribe in Nigeria, learned from a former slave named Cudjo that she had been the answer to his prayers for his people in Nigeria.

Cudjo’s story would be told in the December 1931 issue of National Geographic – he was the last survivor of the last cargo of slaves captured in Africa and sold in the States.
The article would tell how the ship rolled in the swells and crept into Mobile Bay one night to sneak Cudjo and others into Alabama.


And it would tell how a traveling circus brought the nearest glimpse of home. Cudjo was working in the field with other Dahomey tribesman when they heard the elephants trumpeting as they passed through. Thoughts of Africa swelled in their hearts and they wanted to run after the elephants.
For days afterward, they were happy, Cudjo told National Geographic.
But that fleeting happiness didn’t touch the lifetime of homesickness.
It also didn’t touch Cudjo’s greatest joy – he found Jesus in Alabama.
For decades at Union Missionary Baptist Church he had served by lighting the lamps and ringing the bell, the whole time praying that he would live long enough to hear that his people in Africa had heard the gospel.
And then Caver appeared at his gate, telling him that she had been the one to go.
“He asked if she would go in his kitchen and look in the pie safe and get the jar that was in there,” Brown recounted. “The only thing in that pie safe was a bowl of flour gravy and a jar with coins in it.”
When Caver took the coins to him, Cudjo said, “I want you to take these and give them so my people in Africa will know more about Jesus.”
Caver tried to talk him out of it, but Cudjo wasn’t swayed. God had done the seemingly impossible – the very thing he had prayed for – and he wanted to give everything he had in return.

A beautiful story

Sometime later at a different training session in Mobile, Caver asked Brown if she would drive her out to visit Cudjo’s grave.
“I said, ‘Who?’ and she said, ‘You haven’t heard of Cudjo?’ and I said no,” Brown said. “And she said, ‘Well, he has a beautiful story. You need to hear it.’”
And Caver told it to Brown.
When the two Alabama Baptist staffers arrived at Cudjo’s grave, they found a crude headstone made out of concrete.
“The information had been scratched on there,” Brown said.
It had his name, Cudjo Kossola Lewis, and the fact that he had been born in Africa.

Submitted photo
National Geographic's December 1931 issue told the story of Cudjo, the last survivor of the last cargo of slaves captured in Africa and sold in the States.

“It was simple,” Brown said. “And down below it, it said, ‘I believes in prayer.’”
Brown is now in her 90s and Caver has been gone since 1956.
But the “incredible” story of Cudjo’s answered prayer got dusted off when Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, got a call to pick up some historical mementos for preservation.
“We stored them at the special collection [at Samford University in Birmingham], and they included some mementos from Mary Ellen Caver,” Berg recounted.
One letter from the mission field stood out to Berg, and she planned to read it and tell Caver’s missions story at the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting in 2016.


The letter was “ruminating in my mind” when Berg was staying with Brown one night in Owassa, 100 miles northeast of Mobile. “We were having dinner and I asked her if she wanted to hear what I was thinking about sharing at the convention,” Berg said. “I mentioned Mary Ellen, and she said, ‘Oh, I love Miss Mary Ellen. She was such a great lady.’”
Brown began to tell Berg the story of Caver’s trip out to Cudjo’s cabin and about their trip to his grave.
“It was emotional to hear it,” Berg said. “I was just overcome.”
Brown rummaged around in a drawer and came back with the National Geographic that had been sent to her by a relative in Texas not because of Cudjo but just because it had a section featuring Alabama.
“God took all these parts from Africa, Mobile, Texas, Owassa and Mary Ellen’s church in north Alabama and put them all together to tell this incredible story,” Berg said.
“It’s an amazing, meaningful story. All these parts to me are encouraging – that God is weaving our story, whether it’s big global things or just a visit with one person.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist,, news journal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/24/2018 11:07:40 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kenyan family introduced to the ‘Great Physician’

August 24 2018 by IMB Staff

Fatuma* is raising her five children in a one-room metal house among 2.5 million people who dwell in an estimated 200 slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Despite the squalid living conditions, she knows her children have something she never had as a child: love.

IMB photo
In 1950, Sub-Saharan Africa had no cities with populations of more than 1 million. Today, it has over 40. Eleven of the 25 fastest-growing cities in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

After she was orphaned, Fatuma was sent to her aunt and uncle to be raised. They treated her like a servant and kept her home from school to do cleaning chores.
Fatuma’s hunger to learn once resulted in a beating after she leafed through a cousin’s school book.
Recently she and her husband Abdi* were scared when their 14-year-old daughter Aalia* had a bleeding issue that wouldn’t stop.
One day Abdi was out in the neighborhood when foreigners walked up. Before he knew it, Abdi was sharing with total strangers about his daughter’s bleeding. An American man told him a story about Jesus, and Abdi invited them to visit his family.
The next day Fatuma welcomed her husband’s guests into their home. The visitors told a further story about God. They said they weren’t trying to take advantage of Aalia’s illness to convert the family to Christianity.
“We’re here because we are followers of Jesus,” they said.
When they asked if they could pray to Jesus for Aalia’s healing, Fatuma agreed. Within a week, Aalia’s bleeding completely stopped. Fatuma was overjoyed to give the report to an American woman when she visited them again.
Decades after the beating she received for her curiosity, Fatuma’s hands finally closed around a small book of her own – a New Testament in Arabic and Swahili.
This time no one will beat her.
Fatuma opens the pages of her book and ponders what she is learning about Jesus. Something – or Someone – is drawing her, and her American friends will be there for the journey.
Gifts through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering support Southern Baptists workers in Nairobi who are taking the hope of Jesus Christ to the people of city’s poorest areas, people such as Fatuma and Abdi.
Learn more about Sub-Saharan African peoples here.
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the International Mission Board’s communications office. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/24/2018 11:07:13 AM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

Greear to state execs: ‘How may I serve you?’

August 23 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Agreements to “assume the best in one another” and that a “gospel-above-all culture needs to prevail” in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) were among the outcomes when SBC President J.D. Greear met Aug. 20 with 15 executive directors of Baptist state conventions.

Photo by Todd Unzicker
Executive directors of Baptist state conventions pray for SBC President J.D. Greear (left) and First Vice President A.B. Vines during an Aug. 20 meeting in Atlanta.

“The most basic principle in airline travel is that if you want someone there for the landing, they have to be there for the takeoff,” Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., told Baptist Press in written comments. “These are the leaders who have been leading in the things before I became president and likely will be there leading after my term. I wanted to know how I could serve them, catalyze their efforts in evangelism and mobilization and bring cohesion to many of the wonderful things already going on throughout the SBC.”
Held at The Westin Atlanta Airport, the meeting included executive directors of conventions in the southeastern United States as well as SBC First Vice President A.B. Vines. Second Vice President Felix Cabrera was invited but could not attend.
Greear will meet in the future with other state executive directors and leaders of churches, associations and SBC entities, according to an Aug. 21 release from Greear’s office.
David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, told BP the Atlanta meeting was characterized by “a great spirit, camaraderie and willingness to work together.”
Hankins, who endorsed Ken Hemphill during June’s SBC presidential election, said Greear “really wants to move forward” the same types of initiatives “I was interested in during the recent campaign”: “the gospel for everyone,” “growing support for the Cooperative Program” and “cooperation among the various levels of Southern Baptist life.”
Discussion at the meeting focused on Greear’s priorities as president, with special emphasis on a possible nationwide evangelism initiative, church planting and mobilization of recent college graduates for missions. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group also was mentioned.
Additionally, Greear asked state conventions, “How may I serve you?”
The southeastern state executives and Greear agreed, according to the release:

  • “That a new gospel-above-all culture needs to prevail amongst pastors, associations, state conventions, national entities and seminaries”;

  • “That the good news, that Jesus came to save sinners, should supersede all geographic, secondary theological, cultural and generational differences”; and

  • “To (1) assume the best in one another and that they have good intentions, (2) when in doubt to give the benefit of the doubt, and (3) when a question arose or a difference in opinion, extending grace to each other in the same way Christ showed us on the cross.”

At one point in the meeting, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive director Jim Richards thanked Greear for being as gracious in winning the SBC presidency as he was two years ago when he trailed in a tight presidential election, withdrew after the second ballot, and moved that the convention elect Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines by acclamation.
“I just wanted to express my appreciation for J.D. [Greear] holding the meeting [with executive directors] to begin with,” Richards told BP. “In that context, I expressed to him [that] he had been a gracious loser two years ago, and it’s even more difficult for a person to be a gracious winner, and that he had extended grace to all who are Southern Baptists, whether they supported his candidacy or not.”
During the meeting with state executives, Richards said, Greear “exhibited great humility and asked for input and sought in every way to exhibit teachability.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said the executive directors expressed appreciation for Greear’s “championing of Cooperative Program (CP) giving,” including a CP promotional video he produced recently for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. The executive directors also told Greear many state convention ministries already in existence dovetail with his priorities for the SBC.
The meeting “was a great opportunity to get on the same page,” Chitwood said, and for Greear to hear “what we were doing in these areas already and how eager we are to help him champion” his convention-wide emphases.
Greear called the state executives “men who love the Great Commission and really desire the best days of Southern Baptist cooperation. I am honored to come behind them and work together with them and the churches in their states.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/23/2018 12:20:28 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay Global & B&H Español named Spanish Publisher of the Year

August 23 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

LifeWay Global and its trade publishing division B&H Español were named Publisher of the Year at the Spanish Evangelical Publishers Association’s (SEPA) awards banquet Aug. 8 in Miami.

Submitted photo
The LifeWay Global and B&H Español team celebrates being named Publisher of the Year by the Spanish Evangelical Publishers Association (SEPA) on Aug. 8, 2018, in Miami, Fla.

LifeWay also received eight additional awards for bestselling books and sales milestones at the SEPA banquet, which took place at Expolit, the largest annual Christian Spanish literature and music convention in the world.
The SEPA Awards, presented annually during Expolit, recognize quality and excellence in the publication, sale and marketing of Christian literature in Spanish.
This is the third time LifeWay has been named Publisher of the Year.
“It has been an exciting year to see what we at B&H and LifeWay can do to serve God’s people through trustworthy resources,” said Craig Featherstone, publisher and director of LifeWay Global. “We are so thankful for our amazing partners in ministry we have at SEPA and Expolit. We look forward to continuing to provide Spanish speakers with Bibles and Christian resources that will transform lives and equip and strengthen the church.”
Also during Expolit, LifeWay Global announced the launch of its “Programa de Biblias de Referencia” (Bible Reference Program) to key distributors from Latin America. Featherstone said the distributors responded with enthusiasm about the program’s ability to point toward an “ideal Bible for the end consumer.”
LifeWay hosted its second annual “Conferencia Crece” (Grow Conference) in conjunction with Coalición por el evangelio (The Gospel Coalition in Spanish), which drew more than 300 pastors and leaders. Crece, an all-day event during Expolit, provided attendees with eight hours of training on the theme “a church that prospers.” Speakers included Miguel Nuñez, Justin Burkholder and Otto Sanchez.
Awards won by LifeWay/B&H Español were:
General award categories:

  • Editorial del año / Publisher of the Year: B&H Español

  • Mejor portada y diseño interior de Biblia / Best cover and interior design ofa Bible: Biblia de Estudio para Mujeres

  • Mejor presencia en las redes sociales / Best social media presence: B&H Español

Bestselling book awards:

  • Liderazgo / Leadership: Delante de Dios y de parte de Dios by Sugel Michelén

  • Libro Vida cristiana / Christian living: Textos fuera de contexto by Jairo E. Namnún y Steven Morales

  • Libro de regalo / Gift: El plan de batalla para la oración

  • Biblia / Bible: Letra Súper Gigante con referencias RVR 1960

Sales milestones: Gallery of Honor

  • Diamond (more than 1 million sold): Nuevo Testamento Hay vida en Jesús

  • Platinum (more than 500,000 sold): Biblia del pescador

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston, with reporting by LifeWay Christian Resources’ communications office, Baptist Global Response and The Alabama Baptist. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/23/2018 12:20:12 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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