December 2009

Missions sending program adds up for Southeastern

December 31 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

More than 60 candidates were interested in pursuing a master of divinity degree in international church planting earlier this year at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Students who sign up to take two years of classes on campus in Wake Forest will then spend the next two years (known as 2+2 program) through the International Mission Board’s International Service Corps (ISC). Or they can join the 2+3 program which puts the candidate in the career apprentice category.

“When they finish that the next natural step is to become a career missionary,” said Scott Hildreth, director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies.

The program began at Southeastern in the mid-90s, with the first groups going out in 1995.

As of May 2009 about 470 IMB missionaries had come through Southeastern. About one in 10 IMB missionaries have ties to Southeastern. Hildreth said many of them since 1995 would have come through 2+2 program.

Recent budget shortfalls at the IMB have raised concerns for Southeastern students hoping to go overseas.

“When the International Mission Board limits overall deployments it trickles (down to Southeastern),” Hildreth said.

“Our students aren’t guaranteed an appointment. We do everything we can to smooth that process.”

While stateside, students pursue a rigorous class schedule to stay on track for the two-year mark.

“To finish the core of that in two years the students have to go at a very intense pace,” Hildreth said. “Not all students can or are willing to keep that pace. Students are taking fewer hours than years past.”

Each of the deployment groups focuses on moving to different locations for logistical and educational reasons. While at Southeastern, students acquaint themselves with others in the program going to the same region. They also begin to learn more about their destination — customs, history, education, cooking, etc.

“I think anything that a person can learn that prepares them for living overseas is a good thing,” Hildreth said. 

“They are able to pray together,” he said. “They develop relationships on campus that sometimes translates to their area of work.”

Assigning groups to a particular group or region builds camaraderie and helps with travel, Hildreth said.

“We like to think that as a result of our training we send out a high quality missionary,” Hildreth said.

“It’s all geared to make that missionary unit as strong and healthy as we can produce.”

The deployment portion of the program also includes an education component. 

Professors are sent a couple times every six to seven months for modulars. Students enrolled in the program come to take part in the classes (which vary depending on the professors available).

Families are invited to take part. Churches from the United States go to handle child care and provide other Bible studies and enrichment for the families.

The students get credit for studying their people group language and are required to work with a mentor (who must also have a master of divinity degree).

“The International Mission Board loves the program,” Hildreth said.  “Our students who go through it love the program.”

Hildreth indicated a high degree of students who complete the program go on to serve on the mission field.

“The International Mission Board considers the 2+2 program a very important part of their missionary strategy for reaching the nations,” Hildreth said.

Related story
Sluggish world economy affecting missions
12/31/2009 3:45:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Sluggish world economy affecting missions

December 31 2009 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

Jodi Nichols cries when she talks about it. Her husband Kevin says he would rather be hit with a baseball bat.

The couple from Wheeler, Miss., committed their lives to missions nearly two years ago. They planned to move to Russia with their four children in January. But in the midst of a rocky economy and shortfalls in missions giving, they won’t be going anytime soon.

“It hurt,” says Kevin of the day he, his wife and about 200 others also called to missions learned that Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board (IMB) did not have the funds to send them.

“Today it still doesn’t feel real ... I know what God has called us to ... (but) it takes money,” he says.

For now, the Nicholses are uncertain when — or if — they will be able to go to the mission field. By the time the economy rebounds, their oldest child may be 15 or 16, and IMB discourages the appointment of families with children that old.

BP photo

Kevin and Jodi Nichols of Wheeler, Miss., had planned to be in Russia this year sharing the gospel as IMB missionaries. But reduced missions giving put their plan on hold indefinitely. They and their four children moved into a mobile home to ride out the transition.


The Nichols family’s situation is a snapshot of how a struggling economy impacts lives — both here and around the globe. Because the Nicholses can’t go, someone in Russia may not hear the gospel.

A global problem
In Asian countries such as South Korea, a sluggish U.S. economy means fewer sales and less money for local goods. It also means that in one of the largest missionary-sending countries in the world, fewer South Korean missionaries will have enough funds.

“The South Korean market kind of mirrors the U.S. market, but double the effects,” says John*, a missionary who handled finances in South Korea for four years before recently moving with his family to Thailand.

“As the U.S. market kind of tanked, (South Korea) lost about half of (its) buying power,” he adds. “They are extremely dependent upon the U.S. imports of their Asian goods.”

South Koreans also are heavily involved in missions — with more than 17,000 Korean Protestant missionaries currently serving worldwide.

“They’re probably our biggest (missions) ally worldwide,” John notes. “The weakening of the Korean won (currency) has impacted their ability to function outside Korea. As a missionary-sending country, they are really feeling it.”

Other countries around the globe are “feeling it” as well.

The U.S. unemployment rate stands at more than 10 percent and is continuing to climb. As staggering as that seems, unemployment in Zimbabwe hovers around 90 percent.

Statistics from the International Labor Organization show the number of unemployed could jump to 239 million internationally by the end of 2009.

There also is the issue of the dollar. Last year, it took $1.62 to equal 1 euro.

This month, the value is around $1.49 after improving briefly to $1.25 earlier this year.

“The dollar has gained some strength,” IMB treasurer David Steverson says. “But while we are better off than we were a year ago, we are not nearly as good as we were (as recently as several months ago).”

‘Difficult to live’
IMB missionaries Mike and Jan Bennett have worked in Venezuela for more than 10 years. Even doing simple things, they say, can be a major expense. When inflation rose to 26 percent, two combo meals at McDonald’s cost $35.

“The economic crisis is affecting every country in the world,” Bennett says. “It makes it very difficult to live on the field when the prices continue to go up.”

In past years, Bennett says, missionaries have been unhappy about the lack of funds to buy Bibles or other ministry materials.

“But the truth of the matter is that this is a far more serious problem,” he says. “The critical need is just having (missionaries) here to do the work.”

The lack of workers also is jeopardizing the future of a significant ministry in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims who live and work in Europe board ferries every summer to return home to North Africa to visit family.

However, an effort that puts Bibles and ministry materials into the immigrants’ hands as their cars pass through a European city’s port gates may fall by the wayside.

Approximately 200 Southern Baptists help with the ministry each summer. Because of last year’s shortfall in Southern Baptists’ Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, many short-term missionaries who coordinate the efforts will not be able to extend their terms.

One missionary says the program won’t be able to continue without them — or replacements.

“The project is in danger if we are not able to replace personnel,” says Dave Webber*, who leads the effort in the European country, where there are believed to be more than 5 million Muslims.

Last year, teams distributed 26,000 gospel packets at the port gates.

“That means 26,000 families received the gospel,” he says. “What if we’re not there at the gates? You can’t print this stuff in many parts in Algeria” where distributing Bibles is illegal.

“I think about this (economic) slowdown and the tough things that are going on around the world financially and in the United States ... but what if we’re not there at the opportunities the Lord has given us?”

‘Hard times’ back home
Parkridge Baptist Church in Coral Springs, Fla., has sent teams in the past to help with the outreach in the European country. But like many churches and ministries worldwide, they also are experiencing their share of financial challenges.

“It’s a hard time,” says pastor Eddie Bevill, who started the church 17 years ago.

“Our offerings haven’t grown much in the last year,” he says. “We raised our mission challenge but reduced our general operating budget. No one got raises — but we didn’t have to let anybody go.”

As the housing market continues to struggle and people are laid off from jobs, many turn to their church for help. “It used to always be people outside of our church,” Bevill says. “Now more and more, it’s (church members) who need financial assistance.

“People call me now saying, ‘I’ve never asked for help in my life. I can’t believe I’m calling.’”

To avoid staff layoffs, the church reduced its Cooperative Program (CP) giving to a month-by-month basis. Nearly half the funding for missions comes through CP, which supports state efforts as well as international and national missions.

“If it comes we’ll give it,” Bevill says. “If it doesn’t come we can’t ... and that’s a terrible way to support the Cooperative Program.

“Older pastors around the country would kick me, I’m sure, for doing that.”

This year the church began what it calls the “Great Connection Offering.” It’s a year-round offering that collects funds for Southern Baptists’ state, national and international mission entities.

“We have challenged people to give on a weekly basis to missions,” Bevill says. The church set a goal of $60,000.

“Right now we’re ahead of (schedule), but if we hit that goal, we will be giving more to those entities than we’ve given in the last three years.”

Bevill, whose church received CP dollars when it formed, knows the importance of giving to other ministries.

“But I can read a spreadsheet, too,” he says. “I can see what’s coming in the offering plate. These are tough decisions for everybody.”

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hendricks is a writer for the International Mission Board.) 

Related story
Missions sending program adds up for Southeastern
12/31/2009 3:35:00 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Reflection: Top stories from 2009

December 31 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

As you wonder how the new year arrived so quickly when it seems your children just got out of school for summer vacation, it’s time to take a quick look back at significant events in North Carolina Baptist and Southern Baptist Convention life during the past year.

Some of the following stories received so much coverage you might think they have been with us always. You will blink over others and wonder that they occurred in the past calendar year and not in some other era.

The stories listed below were covered in the Biblical Recorder and the order of the top 10 at least is in some sense of their long-term impact on the BSC and SBC. They were ordered by BR staff.
  1. Prompted by national reaction to a chapel address by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin, SBC President Johnny Hunt names a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to “bring a report and any recommendations” to the Orlando SBC meeting June 15-16, 2010, “concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” 
  2. The North American Mission Board forced president Geoff Hammond to resign just two months after giving him an unqualified vote of confidence. Three other top administrators also resign.
  3. With Hammond’s forced resignation and the announced retirements of the presidents of both the International Mission Board and the SBC Executive Committee, the top three administrative positions in the Southern Baptist Convention are vacant at the same time, paving the way for a significant remaking of the Convention.
  4. David Treadway, pastor of Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Hickory, took his own life. He had shared with his congregation earlier that he was suffering from depression. The Recorder followed in the next issue with a series on depression in the pulpit.
  5. Cooperative Program gifts from North Carolina Baptist churches are down 4.8 percent in 2008, prompting a revamped 2009 budget and a 2010 budget that is $4.8 million smaller than 2009.
  6. David Horton, pastor of Gate City Baptist Church in Jamestown, is elected president at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.
  7. The Baptist Foundation starts making church loans through a new subsidiary called N.C. Baptist Financial Services. In the first year it loans $8 million.
  8. N.C. Baptist Men partnership in Bihar, India, brings life to villages.
  9. Southern Baptists face potential huge decline. Based on projections of past 50 years, and especially the decreases of the past two years, the SBC could soon be half as large.
  10. Embrace names Ashley Allen as first director of a new women’s ministry at the Baptist State Convention.
  11. Ed Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, is elected BSC president.
  12. A shortage of funds at the International Mission Board could force it to cut 600 missionary positions.
Other important stories of 2009 include:
  • Supporters of a marriage amendment rallied at the capital on a frigid day in Raleigh.
  • “Ignite” youth rallies continued in western North Carolina, pointing toward a three-day regional youth evangelism event March 26-28 in the Asheville Civic Center.
  • Churches tackle economic challenges in their communities with outreach efforts.
  • Carthage church ministers after rest home shooting in town.
  • Church planting emerges as the primary evangelism strategy in BSC and SBC.
  • Bruce Whitaker, president for 32 years of Chowan College, then University, died May 5.
  • The North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries is launched and awards first grant.
  • SBC kicks out Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, over homosexual issue.
  • Music week loses its preferred Fort Caswell scheduling spot because it didn’t maximize the facility’s capacity.
  • North Carolina children in the care of county departments of social services often do not receive the best care possible because residential facilities like Baptist Children’s Homes are only a third and last option for out of home placement.
  • Declining income forces the BSC to lay off three and eliminate six staff positions. Southeastern Seminary receives $126,500 grant from The Energy Foundation for initiatives toward creation care and sponsors two creation care conferences.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – What about you? What were your top stories for 2009? What stories are shaping up to be top stories for 2010? What stories do you want the Biblical Recorder to cover this year? Send your feedback to editor@biblicalrecorder.org or Biblical Recorder, P.O. Box 18808, Raleigh, NC 27619. You can send it in the form of a letter to the editor or just send it. We would love to hear from you. Don’t forget to share your big church events, staff changes, large conference events and mission trip photos as well.) 
12/31/2009 3:24:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 2 comments



Three ask Mo. Baptists to drop lawsuits

December 30 2009 by By Vicki Brown

 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ABP) -- Three messengers to the most recent Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting who seek to end a seven-year legal struggle between the convention and five formerly affiliated entities were given a chance to air their views Dec. 15.


Frank Whitney, pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit; Mike Monahan, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Hermann; and Mel Lance of First Baptist Church in North Kansas City met with the MBC Executive Board at its December session at the Baptist Building in Jefferson City, Mo.


Each gave reasons why they believe the convention should end lawsuits first filed against the Word & Way newspaper, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, The Baptist Home retirement-home system, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Missouri Baptist University in 2002.


MBC president Bruce McCoy invited the three men to attend the Executive Board meeting after confusion at the MBC annual session earlier in the year ended opportunities to present motions related to the lawsuits.


At that meeting, messengers broadened the Executive Board’s authority to deal with legal issues involving the entities -- including the possibility of ending the legal action. They voted down Whitney’s amendment to grant the Executive Board the power to act, but only to end the litigation.


Once the original proposal passed, McCoy moved to other business. The committee on order of business determined that any additional motions regarding the lawsuits would have been out of order.


Had he been allowed, Monahan said, he would have made a motion to instruct the convention to discontinue legal action as the plaintiff. The Hermann congregation had voted at a church business meeting to bring the motion to the convention.


In a brief interview after they spoke at the board’s December meeting, Monahan and Whitney said they believe the lawsuits should end now.


“I’m hoping they will re-examine the original movement toward lawsuits and am hoping they will resolve the legal issues this year,” Monahan said.


Whitney said both sides are at fault and that the Bible is “clear” in its admonition against legal action.


“I’d like to see the convention ... and the agencies come to the point of repentance for ... taking a legal response,” he said. “I believe the agencies erred in stepping over their charters, and I believe the convention erred in taking it to court.”


He added that he asked the MBC to “lay down the lawsuits with no concessions.... If someone files something against us, I’m ready to take the harm.


“I lay no blame here.... We as a convention voted overwhelmingly to pursue lawsuits [in 2002].... We need to step away, then the agencies can respond,” he said.


Both Monahan and Whitney said they felt that board members listened and seemed to understand.


“I believe they seemed receptive,” Monahan said. “Their primary focus seems to be on regaining unity.... I feel that’s a goal we can all agree on. I think as we get the litigation settled, after that point, we can reopen frank and direct discussions” between the MBC and the entities.


Judges in both Cole County -- where the original legal action was filed -- and in Camden County -- where the MBC filed a second lawsuit against Windermere -- have ruled in the conference center’s favor. Windermere also won an MBC appeal of the Cole County ruling.


The convention has filed an appeal in the Camden County case, as well. The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District will hear oral arguments on Jan. 15 in Springfield.


 

Vicki Brown  is associate editor of the Missouri Baptist Word & Way.

 

12/30/2009 6:18:00 AM by By Vicki Brown | with 0 comments



Union event examines denominational, SBC future

December 30 2009 by Keith Hinson, Baptist Press

No one had a crystal ball but speakers at the October conference at Union University on “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism” drew from historical facts and from current trends to posit a future for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and evangelicalism.

Denominations will always be around because “like-minded people will always find a way to associate with one another,” said  Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “Denominations are inevitable in mission-focused churches, and the best denominations may be understood as networked cooperative relationships for mission.”

Stetzer, a frequent contributor to books, articles and conference platforms, said, “For now I find strength in my denomination. It is not a prison, but a home. God has allowed for the cooperation of churches in networks and denominations so that the greatest number of people in our darkened world can be most effectively reached with the one thing that brings true unity: the gospel.”

Nathan Finn, assistant professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, acknowledged a decades-old debate as to whether Southern Baptists are evangelicals. A current identity crisis for “evangelicals” is that as many groups and individuals claim that identity for themselves the definition has grown so broad as to be without value.

 

Photo by Abby Ott

Nathan Finn, assistant professor of church history and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivers an address entitled “Southern Baptists and Evangelicals: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation” at the Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism conference. Several speaker from North Carolina took part in the event.


“Though there is surely a sense in which Southern Baptists are evangelicals, there are times that Southern Baptists must be against evangelicals,” he said.

“As long as evangelicalism remains a parachurch-driven coalition, Southern Baptists will remain nervous about certain types of cooperation with the broader evangelical movement,” Finn said.

“While we can and should cooperate with other evangelicals in a variety of worthy endeavors, such cooperation must not come at the expense of an ecclesiological downgrade that would transform us into something other than Baptists.”

 

Finn commended concern among younger Christian leaders for such problems as poverty, racism, sexism, the spread of AIDS, worldwide human sex trafficking and religious persecution. He cautioned, however, against allowing cultural engagement to trump passion for evangelism and missions.

“When I attend the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, I sometimes hear louder shouting and endure longer ovations for Religious Right victories than gospel advances reported by our two mission boards,” Finn said.

“I wonder if Lottie Moon herself would be greeted with the same adulations that some Republican politicians have received at recent convention meetings.”  

‘Well positioned’ to deal with decline
Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College, suggested that even as denominations are seen as largely in decline, the Southern Baptist polity of local church autonomy is “well positioned” to deal with the problem.

“It seems to me that there are ways the SBC might be able to hold on to benefits of denominational life and denominational structure without some of the drawbacks of denominationalism,” Litfin said.

He cited some local churches’ decisions to “play down” Baptist identity or SBC affiliation “without severing the connection or leaving it behind. Nor is it being waved in people’s faces.”

Litfin predicted the decline of denominations may “force the SBC to become less insular.”

While some Southern Baptists leaders may still prefer “insularity” from evangelicalism, many in the SBC have chosen to network with the “broader evangelical world,” Litfin observed.

Harry Poe, Charles Colson professor of faith and culture at Union University, offered a critique of evangelism materials developed during the 20th century. He said denominations and parachurch groups produced programs designed to produce converts.

But he felt creation and publication of evangelism programs is a sign of failure, suggesting “that Christians and churches no longer talk about their faith in Christ as a normal part of everyday life.”

‘Missional’ and ‘attractional’ churches

Mark DeVine, associate professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., urged patience and appreciation for the innovations of young church planters who labor in challenging contexts, often in urban areas.

“Perhaps the most misinformed comments I hear about the emerging church are those that apply a quick and dirty analysis that ends by reducing and dismissing the phenomenon as the convulsions of typical youth rebellion against Grandma and Grandpa’s religion,” DeVine observed.

For various reasons, church planters are often dissatisfied with the “models of church that nurtured them” or that they have otherwise encountered, DeVine said.

“When young men, dissatisfied with the models of church that nurtured them, strike out on their own and actually plant churches, how typical is that?” DeVine asked.

“Church planting ... is a fairly impressive way to rebel, I think.”

DeVine said theologically conservative and doctrine-friendly church planters want to plant “missional” churches, as contrasted with “attractional” churches.

“An attractional church focuses disproportionate energy as to what takes place within the walls of its church buildings: worship services, religious education, various clubs, recreation and other programs,” DeVine said. “All of these are advertised and promoted in various ways and are meant to attract unchurched believers and unbelievers into the churches’ facilities where enjoyment of the various programmatic offerings keep them there. Once someone crosses the threshold of that church facility, much of the work of church growth is done.”

Younger church planters may “recognize the effectiveness of attractional models for some,” DeVine said. “But they also are convinced that growing proportions of the unbelieving population will not be reached by such an approach. Some unbelievers must be reached outside the walls of the church building. They must be reached where people live, work, study and play.”  

‘Nimble networks, not stolid bureaucracies’
Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University in Houston and an associate director of the school’s Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life, pointed out that more than 12,000 churches affiliate with the Willow Creek Association, which is more churches than in all but five Protestant bodies.

The association’s success, Lindsay said, has come from its provision of things many denominations used to provide, such as “excellent continuing education programs ... (and) a platform through which ideas can be shared and professional connections can be made.”

As far as denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention does a better job than most at continuing to provide these things, but “a lot more work needs to be done thinking about how our institutions can really be like nimble networks, not stolid bureaucracies,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay affirmed the importance of institutions which “provide buffers against our worst instincts. Churches need denominations because they provide institutional ballast when the storms of an organization hit.”

Lindsay also affirmed the capacity of denominations to exercise what he called “convening power ... the ability to bring together disparate groups of people to get something done. ... Convening power is the resource that flows through networks. It allows leaders to marshal resources, to share information and to deflect criticism.”

 

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hinson is an associate in communications services for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.)  

Union University conference asks: ‘Do denominations have a future?’
Academics, some preachers and a few Baptist editors converged in Jackson, Tenn., in October to discuss “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism,” at a conference by that name held at Union University.

It was a timely topic given the forlorn language many use when discussing the future viability of denominations. Although scheduled previously, the conference followed a recent revelation that — given trends of the past 50 years — the Southern Baptist Convention could lose one-half of its membership by 2050. These stories (see links below) give a sense of the opinions of conference speakers. — The Editor
Photos: www.uu.edu/photos/PhotoAlbum.cfm?PhotoID=0&EventID=2515
Audio: www.uu.edu/events/baptistfuture/schedule.cfm 

Related stories

Danny Akin says SBC future dependent on change

Unite around gospel essentials, Dockery urges

Al Mohler urges young Baptists to save Convention

Editorial: Are Southern Baptists evangelical?

12/30/2009 12:58:00 AM by Keith Hinson, Baptist Press | with 4 comments



Danny Akin says SBC future dependent on change

December 30 2009 by Keith Hinson, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists’ future rests on redirecting resources from the Deep South, abandoning racism and remaining committed to biblical orthodoxy, expository preaching, the lordship of Christ and sound doctrine, declared Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, during his address Oct. 8 at Union University.

Naming a statistic that has become a refrain during the work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force on which he sits, Akin told conferees that $12 billion was given through the denomination’s local churches in 2008 but “only 2.75 percent ever left the borders of the United States.”

Church planting in “unreached and unserved areas of our nation is little more than a trickle,” Akin said. “Why we plant more churches in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee than we do in New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington and California is absolutely incomprehensible to me.”

Photo by Morris Abernathy

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, talks with students from Union over breakfast who are interested in going to Southeastern.


Every Southern Baptist congregation should be “a church-planting church and every church a Great Commission church,” Akin added. “This must be more than a slogan. It must be a reality.”

Akin called for a church planting strategy “that assaults the major population centers of North America.”
He said if Southern Baptists continue to neglect “the great urban centers such as New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle … we will face a future of irrelevance and insignificance.”


Akin, who believes strong state conventions in the south utilize too much Cooperative Program money in their own states, said, “We must streamline our structure, clarify our identity and maximize our resources. A younger generation wants a leaner, quicker and more missional convention that pursues the unreached and under-served in our nation and around the world.”

“That is where they are going and our leadership at every level will either get on board or be left behind,” Akin added. “In other words, we will change the way we operate, whether we like it or not.”
Akin warned against nostalgia for the status quo of past decades, which could be an obstacle to revitalization.

“Many Southern Baptists are trapped in a time warp,” Akin stated. “They are aiming at a culture that went out of existence years ago. They use mid-20th century methods and pine for a nostalgic golden age. They are convinced if we would just go back to the way things were, we would experience a spiritual renaissance that would restore the good old days. ... We are not going back. We will move forward into the future, whether we like it or not.”

With everything up for consideration Akin even said the name “Southern Baptist Convention” needs to be changed, because it isn’t “best for identifying who we are and want to be in the future.”

One key to a positive future for the SBC would be the abandonment of racism and an increasing diversity, Akin said.

“Until we get right about race, I am convinced God will not visit us with revival,” Akin said. “The plea for a Great Commission resurgence will not move heaven, and it will be scoffed at by the world as a sham. Starting at home, we must pursue a vision for our churches that looks like heaven.”

Akin told conferees that his remarks at Union represented the fourth time in five years he had “addressed some aspect of the future of the” SBC.

He expressed dismay that more attention had not been paid to the first axiom of a chapel message delivered in April at Southeastern Seminary in which Akin had called for churches to “be committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ in every area.”

The axiom, Akin said, “has been passed over and quickly dismissed with the wave of a hand and words like, ‘We all believe that.’”
 But, Akin countered, “I fear we do not and as a result we too often devolve into petty quarrels, territorialism, turfism, defensiveness and personal agendas that find the Savior nowhere in sight.”

Southern Baptists must continue to make clear their commitment to the Bible as inerrant, infallible and sufficient, he said.


Related stories

Union event examines future of denominations, SBC

Unite around gospel essentials, Dockery urges

Al Mohler urges young Baptists to save Convention

Editorial: Are Southern Baptists evangelical?

12/30/2009 12:52:00 AM by Keith Hinson, Baptist Press | with 10 comments



Unite around gospel essentials, Dockery urges

December 30 2009 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

JACKSON, Tenn. — Though church denominations are in decline, they still provide benefits such as structure, connections, coherence and accountability, the president of Union University said Oct. 8.

David Dockery, speaking at the conference he hosted, to mark the 400th anniversary of the Baptist movement, said the value and significance of denominations depend on the degree they are rooted in scripture and biblical heritage.

“I believe (denominations) do matter, and they will continue to matter,” Dockery said. “But if, and only if, they remain connected to scripture and to the orthodox tradition. Even with all of the advancements of our technological society, we still need some kind of structure to connect and carry forth the Christian faith. We need conviction and boundaries, but we also will need a spirit of cooperation to build bridges.”

Photo by Morris Abernathy

Union President David S. Dockery delivers an address entitled “So Many Denominations: The Rise and Decline of Denominationalism and the Shaping of a Global Evangelicalism” at the Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism conference.


Dockery said denominations have been important throughout Christian history “to carry forward the work of those who come together around shared beliefs and shared practices.”

He acknowledged that the rise of so many Christian denominations came about because of spats over often trivial matters.  Tracing the development of denominations, he said they are “primarily an American phenomenon.”

He said “the freedoms in America have enabled denominations to expand, to flourish and to break off from those from which they were birthed,” a development he said “dreadfully,” has resulted “more in the Americanization of Christianity than the Christianization of America.”

The decline of denominational significance began as a result of the influence of liberalism in the early 20th century, Dockery said, and continued through the reaction of fundamentalism to liberal drift in mainline denominations.

He attributed the lack of denominational identity in more recent years to the rise of parachurch and special interest groups that have become more important than churches among evangelicals.

The rise of trans-denominational movements is one of the most important developments in Christianity over the past several decades, Dockery suggested.

“No longer do people identify with kindred spirits in vertical alignments — as Lutherans, as Anglicans, as Presbyterians, as Methodists or Baptists,” he said.

“Instead, people identify more around other connections and identifying markers such as fundamentalists, conservatives, evangelicals, moderates and liberals. 

“Thus liberal Anglicans and liberal Methodists have much more in common than liberal Anglicans and conservative Anglicans.”

The growth of Christianity worldwide is another great change that has occurred in recent years, Dockery said. Whereas the United States for many years has been the capital of worldwide evangelicalism, statistics indicate a shift is taking place.

For example, Africa now has more Christians than the United States has citizens, he noted.

Dockery argued that this shift provides a tremendous opportunity for Christians to think in fresh ways about the rifts that have divided them in the past.

“We must realize that our real struggles are not against fellow Christ followers, but rather against the demonic, secularism and unbelief,” Dockery said.

“What is at stake if we do not take our eyes off the intramural squabbles that seem to characterize most all of the denominations is a loss of the unity within the Christian movement and a loss of the mission focus of the Christian movement in the West.”

He said that denominations will continue to have a place in evangelicalism in the future, and “denominations that thrive will remain convictionally connected to their tradition, while working and exploring ways to partner with affinity groups and networks, and seeking to understand better the changing global context around us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth is director of news and media relations at Union University.)

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12/30/2009 12:46:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Al Mohler urges young Baptists to save Convention

December 30 2009 by Jeff Robinson, Baptist Press

 JACKSON, Tenn. — Do not leave the Southern Baptist Convention, save it, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told college students during chapel at Union University.

Mohler brought the closing address of the “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism Conference.”

He said the rise of secularism and the fall of cultural Christianity in the deep South over the past two decades have conspired to make the “20-something” generation crucial for defining the mission of the SBC in the near future. 

“You must be a part of forging a new identity for the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. Speaking to a chapel audience that included his daughter Katie,  a student at Union, Mohler said the heart of the denomination is a bigger issue than numbers: “the clarity of our vision, the essential importance of our mission,” Mohler asserted.

Photo by Morris Abernathy

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivers an address entitled “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism” at the Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism conference.


“It is going to be yours, and you are going to decide what to do with it.”

The SBC is experiencing the death of cultural Christianity because the faith no longer holds the spiritual franchise it once did in the Bible Belt, Mohler said.

“Any denomination that bases its future on the confidence of cultural Christianity deserves to die with that culture when it dies,” he said.

“It (a new identity) is not something we can create with a new slogan, for new slogans will not save us.

“There is a need for a resurgence of Great Commission passion, vision, commitment and energy in our denomination.”

He said “the cause of the gospel” called Southern Baptists together in 1845 and “only the cause of the gospel will keep us together, only the cause of the gospel is sufficient as a reason for us to be together.”

To refocus a denomination on the Great Commission will be costly, Mohler said, because it will require asking questions that have not been asked within the SBC for several generations and dealing with issues not previously considered.

“The vision before us is not the perpetuation of the Southern Baptist Convention, but the call of the nations to exult in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Mohler said.

“The great dynamic of the SBC cannot be to make certain that our statistics are healthy and that our charts point ever upward; it has to be that the glory of God would be evident in persons hearing the gospel and responding to the gospel and the establishment of godly churches that are ruled by Christ through His word and to show all that the church is called to show in terms of the fruit of righteousness and the power of the gospel.”

“Do not give your life to the SBC because your grandmother was a Southern Baptist,” Mohler told the students.

“Please do not invest your energies in the Southern Baptist Convention because you want to save something as an important artifact of American religion and southern culture and whatever else.

“Give yourself to the SBC because you see this really can be a denomination that is transformed by a resurgence of Great Commission passion to reach the world for the glory of God, a denomination ready to ask the hard questions and to let goods and kindred go in order to do what God would have us do in the generation ahead,” Mohler urged.

“I am not imploring you to leave the Southern Baptist Convention; I am imploring you to save it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Robinson is director of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.) 

Related stories

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12/30/2009 12:05:00 AM by Jeff Robinson, Baptist Press | with 7 comments



Southerners lead U.S. in religious devotion

December 29 2009 by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) There's a reason the South is known as the Bible belt: A survey shows that Southerners -- and Mississippians in particular -- are most active in their religious practices and beliefs.


Residents of Mississippi ranked first among Americans in all four measures of a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, with 82 percent saying religion is very important in their lives. Five other states had at least seven in 10 people stating that religion holds that kind of importance for them: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina.


Six in ten of Mississippi residents said they attend religious services at least once a week, followed by several states that had at least 50 percent with that commitment: Utah, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.


While 77 percent of Mississippians said they pray at least once a day, they're followed closely behind by residents of other Southern states with more than 70 percent claiming to be as prayerful: Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee.


More than nine in 10 Mississippians say they believe in God "with absolute certainty (91 percent), but several Southern states have more than 80 percent who hold a similar belief: South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina.


The findings, published online by the Pew Forum Dec. 21 and drawn from data from its 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, mirror earlier results released by the Gallup Poll in January 2009, which also found Mississippi to be the most religious state.


Like Gallup, Pew researchers found New Hampshire and Vermont to be the states where the lowest percentage of respondents viewed religion as very important in their lives.

 

12/29/2009 7:07:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks | with 0 comments



Merry Christmas

December 24 2009 by BR staff



The Biblical Recorder would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

The office is closed Dec. 22-25.

The office will also be closed Jan. 1, 2010, for New Year’s.

May God bless you as you celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

(stock.xchng graphic by flaivoloka)
12/24/2009 7:16:00 AM by BR staff | with 1 comments



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